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Meet the Dean: Marnie Oakley, DMD

After serving twice as interim dean over a course of nearly two years, Dr. Marnie Oakley describes officially assuming the role of dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine as both “surreal” and a “true professional honor.”

An enthusiastic “Pitt person,” Dr. Oakley’s connection with the University goes deep—before completing her undergraduate education and dental school training at Pitt, she recalls weekends travelling from her home in eastern Pennsylvania to watch her older brother play football at Pitt Stadium.

In the 18 divided months that Dr. Oakley served as interim dean, she created positive momentum around the school’s mission of improving oral health by tapping into the knowledge and expertise of a strong team of committed faculty and staff members. She also had the opportunity to recruit top-tier leaders to fill key faculty vacancies. Now, she is taking full advantage of this momentum. 

“[My team] is bringing new ideas and there is real, positive energy around the work we’re doing together,” said Dr. Oakley. “We have enjoyed a long history of stellar academics, innovative research and unwavering service to our community … the people I work with are a true blessing in my professional and personal life.”

Dr. Oakley believes her deep connection to the University, military experience and leadership training uniquely set her up for long-term success as steward of the School of Dental Medicine. After serving an active duty, four-year tour as a Dental Officer in the U.S. Navy, she returned to the School of Dental Medicine to serve in a variety of roles over the next two decades including clinical instructor, assistant and associate professor, department chair and vice dean for clinical affairs. She also holds an Executive Coaching Certificate from UC Berkeley Executive Education.

“Spending nearly a decade teaching leadership principles and behaviors to dental academicians and leadership across the country has allowed me to develop strong and longstanding relationships with many of my peers,” said Dr. Oakley. “Creating collaborations with others seems to come natural to me … we offer support to one another and our trust in one another helps foster enormous creativity.”

In the near future, Dr. Oakley hopes to expand the School of Dental Medicine’s footprint and reach into the community—particularly in rural areas where access to care is limited. Following the pandemic, the dental profession experienced a significant loss of dental assistants and dental hygienists, and Dr. Oakley hopes to address this problem head-on with new and creative programs aimed at improving access to care throughout the Commonwealth.  

“I have so many plans for us as we step forward,” said Dr. Oakley, “We simply have endless possibilities.”