Bruce Cassis, DDS, MAGD, is a1980 graduates of the West Virginia University School of Dentistry. Mid-pandemic, Dr. Cassis was marking a milestone in his career at his Fayetteville, West Virginia dental practice. Along with celebrating a career of longevity, Cassis was taking on a new role as the President of the Academy of General Dentistry, a title announced in October 2020.
Challenged by his father to always help others, Cassis began a 40-year career doing just that. And at 66 years old, an age some consider retirement, he is still helping others.
In ways he had imagined and in ways he never could have dreamed.
In an October 2016 article for the The Fayette Tribute, writer Steven Keenan presented the story of a patient oriented provider, loyal little league parent and state and national influencer in the dental industry.
In February 2021, Cassis offered his perspective to the Future of Personal Health. In his article, he impressed upon the importance of continued oral health care in unprecedented times of a pandemic.
Dr. Cassis is a continued supporter of student education at the dental school. Part of his giving back includes teaching courses in laser dentistry to DDS students.
“He has done so much for our profession. It was an honor to be part of the program where we recognized him. On behalf of the dental school, we are fortunate to call him alumni and acknowledge his dedication and support of our school and the West Virginia dental community, ” said Dr. Foti Panagakos, Interim Dean of the WVU School of Dentistry.
Follow the questions and answers with Dr. Cassis below.
Question: What is most surprising about the some of the routes your career has taken?
Answer: First off, I had every intention of joining my cousin in Miami, Florida to practice dentistry after graduation. During the 3-month period to wait to take the Florida boards, I moved to Fayetteville, WV with my wife and son and there was a disabled dentist in Gauley Bridge that needed some help taking care of patients. One thing led to another and I decided that lifestyle for my family was more important and so we never left. The second event was when I joined the Academy of General Dentistry. It put me on a pathway of learning with recognition for those efforts. More importantly, it allowed me to be the best and do the best for the welfare of my patients and I continue to learn to this day.
Question: As mentioned above, you wear many hats. One we did not touch on is educator. Tell us about your time as an instructor and your goals as an educator for your alma mater.
Answer: Being a dentist is being an educator. I was fortunate through my desire for continuous learning to see the future of dental lasers in dentistry. In 2000, there were very few lasers available for dentistry, but I saw how laser assisted dentistry would benefit patients. Since there were so few lasers available, I began to accumulate experience in the field where there were very few instructors, and so I began helping other dentists adopt the technology. Next thing you know, I am certified in laser technology and began teaching classes. Learning how to be an educator was an education itself. Being an instructor has taken me all over the world, but more importantly, it has allowed me to work with and be friends with some great people at each and every class. My goal as an educator for my alma mater is to help our faculty in any way possible. I bring the practical side to what is taught in school, in other words, how does what is learned in school apply to real life practice. This is best accomplished by our continued involvement with students rotating through our office for a 6-week period.
Question: What can you offer to our students, both upcoming graduates and the classes behind them, to motivate and encourage them as they navigate dental school during challenges never before experienced?
Answer: Times have been tough for everyone, but it has been my observation that the school has done more than expected to safeguard you and to continue to educate you through all of the unexpected events of the last year. Use that to your advantage, and continue to learn in this environment. There are some great mentors that await you in life, and some of them are dentists! Seek them out.
Question: Dental school graduates sometimes begin their careers after a challenging educational experience. As you reflect, can you relate? What compelled you to continue as an active alum?
Answer: I graduated in 1980 with debt comparable to today's students. School was very regimented and didn't leave a great taste in my mouth and I was married to Evie, had a son and another on the way. As I retired my debt and continued to care for my family, I knew that nothing I could accomplish in life would have been possible without the education I received in Morgantown. I am eternally grateful. Without hesitation, I would repeat "to whom much is given, much is expected".
Question: Over time, you have continued your education in many specialized areas of dentistry. What are your interests and why do you remain curious?
Answer: Having knowledge in the specialty areas of dentistry has helped me to better treat patients as a whole person as opposed to just looking at the teeth and gums. Helping patients to reach a positive, healthy decision on their treatment is only possible by seeing the "big picture" and you do that through knowledge. Quite frankly, all the technical skill in the world is not helpful if you don't know your patient or you don't establish a relationship. My longevity in the field can be stated easily. It is the technology that makes my job easier, faster and better, and it is the relationships developed over the years that keeps me in the game.