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Dr. Sarah Dirks

Faculty Feature: Meet Sarah Dirks, DDS

CU Dental Clinical Associate Professor, Community Dentistry and Population Health, and ACTS Program Assistant Director

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Written by Laura Ramsey on October 20, 2022

As a practicing dentist for more than thirty years, Dr. Dirks brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her new role at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine (CU SDM). She joins the faculty in the department of community dentistry and population health with a focus on senior care, and is assistant director of the ACTS program. Her passion lies in geriatric dentistry and connecting dental care with overall health care.

Dr. Dirks studied psychology at Hastings College in Nebraska and earned her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA). She completed fellowships in geriatric medicine & dentistry and substance abuse in interprofessional care through the South Texas Veterans Health Care System and UTHSCSA.

Dr. Dirks was a faculty member at UTHSCSA for nearly two decades. Her last position was an associate professor and director of the UTHSCSA Geriatric Dental Clinic. She then transitioned to adjunct faculty with a supervisorial role for clinical rotation sites. During this time, she established the Geriatric Dental Group of South Texas which provides clinical rotations for students in dental hygiene and dental assistant programs.

Now as the CU SDM ACTS program assistant director, Dr. Dirks is heavily involved in community outreach initiatives and helping dental students gain real-world experience with diverse populations at more than thirty clinical sites around Colorado.

Dr. Dirks is a member of the American Dental Education Association, the Association of State & Territorial Dental Directors (Healthy Aging Committee), Geriatric Dental Alliance, and Special Care Dentistry. She has held leadership roles in many dental and non-dental organizations, including the Texas Oral Health Coalition and the American Association of Community Dental Programs Board of Directors. Publications include: The New York Times, Journal of Dental Education, Journal of the American Society on Aging, Quintessence International, Lifetime Magazine: Health & Wellness Issue, among others.

Q&A Header

Describe your teaching style or philosophy.

I want to inspire students! Most importantly, I want students not to be afraid of treating medically complex older adults and to believe in their role as primary health care providers. In addition, using real life patient cases promotes critical thinking rather than cookie cutter answers.

What do you enjoy most about your role and why?

I love that I get to interact with and learn from other faculty and students in an interprofessional environment. Even though I have been a dentist for over thirty years, there is always so much more to learn! It is also fantastic when dental students ask great questions regarding their geriatric patients. It shows that they are applying clinical principles learned in lectures. 

If you had 24 hours to spend however you wanted, what would you do?

That is easy: I would gather up my three grown sons, their significant others, my husband, and my dog Polly. We would all be together on a fantasy island with catered food, everyone sleeping in, and everyone relaxing together!  

Topics: Faculty