San Antonio Business Journal: 2019 Health Care Heroes: Kevin Donly

From the San Antonio Business Journal


Kevin J. Donly, D.D.S., M.S.

Dr. Kevin Donly, department chair, UT Health San Antonio, Department of Developmental Dentistry

During his more than 30 years in academia, Dr. Kevin Donly has become recognized in pediatric dentistry. Meanwhile, he has focused his career on providing care for infants, children, adolescents and children with special health care needs, predominantly in underserved areas. Donly is a professor and chair in the Department of Developmental Dentistry and a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UT Health San Antonio. He has also been a professor at the University of Iowa and an associate professor of pediatric dentistry at the University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston. Donly is a diplomat of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry, president-elect of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and past-president of the American Society of Dentistry for Children. He also was the pediatric dentistry commissioner for the Commission on Dental Accreditation. He has published more than 350 chapters, manuscripts and abstracts associated with pediatric dentistry, dental restorative materials research and clinical utilization. And he has received grants or research support from government organizations and numerous companies.

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in health care and why? I always wanted to help people [and] was interested in science, so a career in health care seemed like a natural path for me.

What was your first job, and what lesson did you learn that is applicable to what you do today? My very first job was newspaper delivery. I started this when I was 12 years old. I learned that courtesy and timelines were very important, and I have carried that experience with me throughout my career.

Tell us about a patient or a case that upon reflection explains “this is why I do what I do.” Early in my career, a patient was referred to me that was diagnosed with ectodermal dysplasia [abnormal development involving hair, nails, teeth, skin and glands]. He had started elementary school, and other children made fun of his conical-shaped teeth. I was able to place resin-based crowns on his teeth that were very aesthetic and appeared natural. He thanked me many times for “changing his life.”

What characteristics or traits must a person have or cultivate to effectively work in health care? I believe you need to be a caring person. You must have patience, and a health care professional needs to be a good listener.

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