Dr. Henry Gremillion, Dean of LSU School of Dentistry, Remembered

Henry Gremillion, DDS, MAGD and Dean of the School of Dentistry passed away suddenly on May 18, 2020 at age 68.

He is mourned by family and friends, including many of his colleagues here at the School of Medicine.

"It is wisely said ‘that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will not forget how you made them feel.’ These words ring true for everyone who Dr. Gremillion touched. 

I was so fortunate to partner with Henry as a colleague and fellow dean in the Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. Henry epitomized the vision that comes to mind when the words ‘gentleman and scholar’ are spoken. But it was truly my good fortune to know Henry as a friend. Henry always looked for and found what was the very best in everyone. He inspired and lifted your spirits. His smile and laughter would brighten everyone’s day. He had a peaceful radiance that warmed your heart and invigorated your soul.

Henry’s students, staff, faculty, friends and patients will never forget how he touched their lives, how deeply he cared for all of us, and how much we will miss him. Dr. Steve Nelson, Dean, LSUHSC School of Medicine

“Dr. Gremillion was a respected clinician, accomplished academician, and a visionary leader. He oversaw a transformation at the dental school that included growth, advancement of the educational programs, and increased access to dental careers for poor and minority students. What I will remember most about Henry, though, is that he was such a pleasure to work with. He was thoughtful, respectful, humble and gracious. He was a true gentleman who would always find the time to be helpful.” Dr. Richard DiCarlo, Senior Associate Dean for Faculty and Institutional Affairs, LSUHSC School of Medicine

“Dr. Gremillion was  a key and valued partner in aligning the School of Dentistry with our Health Sciences Center’s mission to advance diversity and inclusion. He never hesitated to afford resources to create initiatives both within the Dental School, and in partnership with the School of Medicine support pipeline programs designed to create opportunities for underrepresented student communities, and importantly foster diversity in Louisiana’s healthcare workforce. I very much appreciated his friendship and leadership in our work together. His presence will be genuinely missed.” Dr. Robert Maupin, Associate Dean, LSUHSC Office of Diversity and Community Engagement

Leslie Capo, Director of Information Services, wrote the following:

Henry A.  Gremillion , DDS, MAGD, passed away on May 18, 2020 after a brief illness. A Louisiana native, in 2008 Dr. Gremillion  returned home to lead his alma mater as the sixth dean of the School. A member of the Class of 1977,  Gremillion  was the only LSU Health New Orleans School of Dentistry alumnus to ever hold the position.

“A Louisiana native, dedicated doctor and nationally recognized educator, Dr. Gremillion inspired countless dental students throughout his time as dean of the state’s only dental school,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “His vision steered the school through expansions and renovations so that students can practice their skills in the most advanced preclinical labs in America. I ask everyone to join Donna and me in praying for his family, friends, colleagues and students during this difficult time.”

Henry  Gremillion was adopted at the age of seven months from an orphanage in north Louisiana and raised in Cottonport, a small Louisiana farming community with a population of about 2,000 people. Last year as he was being installed as the Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Dental Education Association, the voice of academic dentistry, he told his colleagues from dental schools throughout the United States and Canada that the town was so small you had to be lost to find it and that only one of its two red lights ever worked.

After he graduated from dental school,  Gremillion  returned to Cottonport to set up a general dentistry practice. He saw patients from all walks of life – his neighbors, children in the Head Start Program, members of the Tunica-Biloxi Indian Tribe and nursing home residents. His service to his community went far beyond taking care of their oral health.  Gremillion  was a member of the School Board and a volunteer firefighter. He entered politics, successfully running for City Council to implement community fluoridation and move forward with reapportionment to address the disparity in representation. His many contributions were publicly recognized when he was named 1989 Cottonport Citizen of the Year.

The quest to learn more to improve the quality of life for his patients led to a two-year craniofacial pain fellowship at the University of Florida College of Dentistry (UCFD). Instead of being a steppingstone to a return to private practice back home in Louisiana, the fellowship led  Gremillion  to academic dentistry.

Rising through the academic ranks,  Gremillion  was named the Parker E. Mahan Endowed Professor of Orofacial Pain in the Department of Orthodontics and was a member of the dental staff of Shands Teaching Hospital. He also served as the director of the UFCD Parker Mahan Facial Pain Center and its fellowship program in craniomandibular dysfunction.   

Along the way,  Gremillion  earned distinguished honors. In 2009, the Academy of General Dentistry honored him with the Thaddeus V. Weclew award for his ‘exceptional contributions to the art and science of dentistry and for promoting the principles and ideals of the academy.’  He received the Dawson Academy Distinguished Service Award in 2009, the American Academy of Orofacial Pain Distinguished Service Award in 2010, and the Pierre Fauchard Academy Gold Medal Award in 2015. Presented annually to a dentist in the United States who has ‘made outstanding contributions to the progress and standing of the dental profession,’ it is one of the international dental honor organization’s most prestigious and exclusive awards.

Back at LSU Health New Orleans School of Dentistry,  Gremillion  continued the school’s recovery from the devastation that followed Hurricane Katrina. He guided sorely needed renovations to improve the learning environment for students. The preclinical laboratories now rival those at any school anywhere. He enhanced patient care and research by completing the only new building on the dental school campus since it was founded. The $31 million Allen A. Copping, DDS Advanced Clinical Care and Research Building opened in 2018.

Gremillion  led the state’s only School of Dentistry and the only one in the country with degree programs in dentistry, dental hygiene and dental laboratory technology. He was most proud of his students and often spoke of their “giving nature.” He delighted in helping them with their community service projects like Give Kids a Smile Day and Adopt an Angel where you could see him wheeling bikes into elevators down to the lobby for pick up by the Salvation Army truck.

“Despite his national stature, Dr. Henry  Gremillion  easily related to people from all walks of life,” says Larry Hollier, MD. “Students, faculty, patients, members of the community, elected officials, local, state and national leaders all found him approachable, respectful, caring, engaged and down to earth. His contributions to the dental profession in Louisiana and nationally are unparalleled. He leaves a legacy of professional standards, high ideals, integrity, quality education and service that will continue to shape dental practice for generations to come.”

One of the programs closest to  Gremillion ’s heart was the Summer Enrichment Program. The purpose of the program is to diversify dentistry by identifying and preparing students from underrepresented minority and disadvantaged backgrounds to be competitive for application to and then succeed in dental school.

“Dr. Gremillion  changed the complexion of the Dental School,” notes LSU Health New Orleans Director of Community Relations and former State Senator Diana Bajoie. “He knew we needed to do more, and he personally championed the Summer Enrichment Program. More than half of the participants have gone on to dental school, with 39 enrolling in LSU Health’s School of Dentistry right here at home. He was so good at reaching out and working with people, and I will really miss him.” 

“Dental education has lost a true gentleman, scholar and friend,” says Karen West, DMD, MPH, President and CEO of the American Dental Education Association.

“It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the passing of one of dentistry's greatest friends and leaders, Dr. Henry  Gremillion ,” says Dr. Trey Carlton, President of the Louisiana Dental Association. “Henry was an incredible man, educator and visionary. His passion for the betterment of his beloved profession was powerful and sincere. Henry truly understood, and more importantly, valued the relationships between the school, the students and the dental professionals. He worked tirelessly to make sure his students had the proper education, exposure and experience to share in his vision of supporting all Louisiana communities. Dean  Gremillion  will forever be missed.”

“Dr Henry  Gremillion  was one of the most respected in the world in his field of facial pain,” says Glenn M. Kidder, DDS, a longtime friend and colleague from the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, Florida where  Gremillion  also taught. “He was also loved by all for his love to share his knowledge and his kind demeanor. He was a mentor to many as a dentist and loving person and will be dearly missed by his family, friends and colleagues.”

Dr.  Gremillion  is survived by his wife of 45 years, Karleen Mackey  Gremillion;  daughters Erin G.Jackson (Brad) of Tampa, FL and Lindsay G. Maples (Andy) of Ponte Vedra, FL; and sons Alan  Gremillion  (Sarah) of Jupiter, FL and Scott  Gremillion  (Wendy) of River Ridge, LA; as well as 10 grandchildren.