by Jim Delahanty, D.M.D. ('75)
Since opening its doors in 1956, NJDS has experienced many changesa new name, a new building, a new city, and several deans. However, through all this change, there is a core of people who have steadfastly remained to ensure that NJDS continued forward. This article highlights the careers of five of these people.¦
Regina Jackson, executive assistant to the dean, joined the school in 1971 as a clerk/typist for Dean Ian Bennett. Twenty- seven years later, she provides executive- level assistance to Dean Robert Saporito and administrative, organizational, and coordinator support to the NJDS faculty, administration, and staff.
Ms. Jackson has had nine bosses. "Each man was different, but they were all interesting," she says, admitting that she always felt anxious when a new dean came aboard. "I was the most nervous when Dr. Frank Lapeyrolerie became dean because he brought with him a personal secretary, Lorraine. I thought I might be looking for a new job." Instead of a threat, the newcomer became an accepted member of a highly organized team, much to the credit of Ms. Jackson and her direction.
In addition to an associate's degree in business administration from Essex County Community College, Ms. Jackson has a bachelor's degree in public policy from St. Peter's College. She is a recipient of the UMDNJ Presidential Performance Award and a member of the National Association for Female Executives.
"Regina has proved to be the critical link during numerous transition periods," says Dean Saporito of his assistant. "She is the lifeline of the school. If one were to track the history of the New Jersey Dental School from its roots with Seton Hall University in Jersey City to the UMDNJ-NJDS of 1998, you would not need a research assistant or website. Your single source would be Ms. Regina Jackson."
"In 1968, I went to the New Jersey College of Medicine and Dentistry to be a board patient for my sister's fiance, Bob Jones ('68)," reminisces Jane Verillo. "While waiting in the reception area, quite by accident, I struck up a conversation with the chairman of the Department of Restorative Dentistry, Dr. Frank Frates. That meeting would change my life." She was hired by the "Coach" as a gold dispensary/ clerk typist in 1969.
Recalls Dr. Frates, now living in San Diego, "She was straight out of high school and pretty as a picture. The Monsignor contested the hiring of such a young, inexperienced girl."
"She answered the phone beautifully, was a damn good typist and was honest," the Coach continues. "I could trust her with my exams and my grade codes." *
Today, Ms. Verillo is the principal management assistant for the Department of General and Hospital Dentistry; her current boss is acting chairman Dr. Michael Sanders ('78). She is responsible for the administrative management of a department of nearly 85 faculty. The recipient of many honors, Ms. Verillo won the UMDNJ Presidential Performance Award in 1985 and 1988 and is listed in Who's Who in the East.
Ms. Verillo is a senior at Kean University, where she is completing a bachelor's degree in sociology with a collateral program in gerontology. She is a member of Kean's Phi Kappa Phi honor society. She graduated cum laude from Hudson County Community College in 1982 with an associate's degree in human services to the aged.
Says Dr. Andy Brafman ('76), former acting chair of Restorative Dentistry and one of Ms. Verillo's past bosses, "Jane is one of the most dedicated and most hard-working people employed by the University and an important part of the history of the dental school."
"The chart room in Jersey City was an 8- by 10-foot room on the third floor across from Dr. LeRoy Parker's office, and I was the chart room clerk," recalls Corlelda Burrell, who began working at the school in 1970. "I planned to look for another job in 1976 because I did not want to come to Newark, but because of the death of my husband, I reconsidered my decision."
There has been no looking back for Mrs. Burrell. She went on to college and obtained an associate's degree in business management from Hudson County Community College and a bachelor of science degree from St. Peter's College.
Mrs. Burrell, supervisor of dental/ medical records and receptionists, oversees the work of four record clerks and six receptionists. More important, she has helped develop new systems for the distribution, retrieval, and maintenance of more than 40,000 dental patient records. She has sole responsibility for training employees in the areas of dental receptionist techniques and record room procedures. For this dedicated service, Mrs. Burrell has received the UMDNJ Presidential Performance Award.
"What Mrs. Burrell brings to her area is the ability to find any chart, any place, any timeno matter what," says Lynn Conley, director of clinical support services.
In addition to her career and family, Mrs. Burrell is active in her church and community. She is past president and financial secretary of Deborah Heart and Lung Foundation, Hoboken Chapter; she is also a past superintendent of St. Matthew-Trinity Lutheran Sunday School and a member of her church council and education committee.**
In Jersey City, patients began treatment on the second floor of 201 Cornelison Avenue, and the elevator door opened to the Department of Oral Diagnosis and Radiology. During this time, Dr. George Yamane was chairman and Melissa (Oetjen) Beards was his secretary. She recalls an early encounter with her boss.
"I just got back from lunch with my new co-workers, Donna Possemato-Fanelli and Lorraine Weschler, and we were a bit late. As luck would have it, who should be standing in front of the elevator door as it opened, with his arms folded, but Dr. Yamane."
Despite this ominous beginning, Ms. Beards is now the principal management assistant for the Department of Oral Pathology, Biology and Diagnostic Sciences, whose chairman is Dr. Richard Vogel ('71). Ms. Beards manages a staff of five and is responsible for the administrative management of the department, which has 51 faculty.
Ms. Beards was educated at the Taylor Business Institute in New York and is a junior at Rutgers University pursuing a bachelor's degree in business administration. A two-time recipient of the UMDNJ Presidential Performance Award, she has garnered other honors: The "Woman of Courage" award from the Pack Foundation for Cancer Research and Graduate Teaching, and a resolution citing her youth-related volunteer work from the Township of Edison.
For the past 12 years, Ms. Beards has been an unofficial member of Omega Omega Chapter of Omicron Kappa Upsilon (OKU), the national dental honor society. She donates her time and administrative skills to the organization, and in recognition of her selflessness has received two awards from the chapter.
"Melissa is a warm, caring, highly ethical young woman," says Dr. Vogel. "She is bright and hard working, and possesses enormous people skills. Her presence and the atmosphere she creates makes the department a far better place than it could ever be without her."
Lynn Conley was hired in January 1973 by Dr. George Yamane as a dental assistant in the Department of Oral Diagnosis and Radiology. "Dr. Yamane told me he was glad to finally have someone in his department who was shorter than he was," she recalls.
Educated at the University of Tennessee, Ms. Conley graduated with a bachelor's degree in education. While in high school and during semester breaks, she worked part time for Dr. Alan Vella ('61) and Dr. Mimi Vella ('63) as a dental assistant. "When I hired Lynn, she knew nothing about dentistry, but I remember she was a hard worker," says Dr. Alan Vella. "There was no time clock for Lynn; even as a kid she was a true professional. It's not hard to understand why she has come as far as she has."
After a few months of working for Dr. Yamane, Ms. Conley applied for a position that became available in the Office for Clinical Affairs. "I was hired by Dr. Irwin Quinn to help him assign patients. I believe it was what the Vellas taught me about dentistry that gave me the edge when I applied for the position of dental care coordinator," she says.
Over the years Ms. Conley's role grew, and today she is director of clinical support services. She is responsible for administration of the financial and support system of the academic program relating specifically to the clinic. With eight supervisors and 60 workers, Ms. Conley and her staff are responsible for the daily operations of the dental school clinic. Under her direction, clinic income has increased more than tenfold.
To do her job effectively, Ms. Conley must be assertive, yet at the same time supportive of the needs of her staff, the faculty, students, and patients. Says Dr. Fotinos Panagakos ('92), director of environmental services and a group practice administrator, "Except for my wife, the only other woman I have ever feared is Lynn Conley. While a student and now as a faculty member, when paged, I still report 'immediately' to Clinical Affairs."
Ms. Conley's career includes a Who's Who in America Outstanding Young Women of America Award in 1979 and two UMDNJ Presidential Performance Awards.
¦ Author's Note: There are many more people at NJDS who have touched the lives of the alumni. To each and every one of you, we are equally grateful.
* Editor's Note: Ms. Verillo still exchanges Christmas cards with Dr. Frates. If any alumni would like to write or call the Coach, please give her a call at (973) 972-3618 and she will be glad to
provide you with his address and
** Author's Note: While interviewing Mrs. Burrell for this story, she pointed out that I have always addressed her as such. "You know, Dr. D., you called me Mrs. Burrell when you were a dental
student, and 25 years later, you are still addressing me as Mrs. Burrell!" She's right! In fact, I had to ask Lynn Conley what Mrs. Burrell's first name is. I guess respect transcends time and letters after your name.