SOD honors alums for dedication, passion for teachingPublished on Monday, July 19, 2021By: Ruth CumminsThere may be a bit of an age difference, but Dr. Stephen Gandy and Dr. Curtis Caskey are alike in other ways: They’ve served patients in private practice, and they’ve served their alma mater, the University of Mississippi School of Dentistry, as educators.Fellow alums of the school on the University of Mississippi Medical Center campus are recognizing their dedication by naming Gandy the 2021 Dental Alumnus of the Year, and by giving the first-time Early Career Achievement Award to Caskey.“I’m very humbled and appreciative,” said Gandy, a 1988 School of Dentistry graduate, who retired about five years ago after enjoying a 24-year career with Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Associates in Jackson.“I was surprised by it. It’s a great honor, considering those who have gotten this award before me.”Caskey, owner of Mississippi Periodontics and Implants in Ridgeland, said he was “completely taken off guard” by the award.Caskey“I’m very proud to receive it,” said Caskey, a 2010 School of Dentistry graduate. “It’s a tremendous award. I’m humbled.”Honorees are chosen by board members of the Medical Center’s Dental Alumni Chapter. Any member of the dental community can make nominations.Gandy and Caskey are being recognized for “their extraordinary contributions befitting of their integrity and their pride in the School of Dentistry,” said Dr. Sreenivas Koka, dean of the School of Dentistry.Koka“Our alumni bring tremendous recognition to our school through their words, deeds and service,” Koka said. “We are fortunate to have them both as alumni of our school, and we congratulate them wholeheartedly.”“Dr. Gandy and Dr. Caskey both are very deserving,” said Dr. Fanasy Jefcoat, a 2003 graduate of the School of Dentistry and president-elect of the Dental Alumni Chapter. Jefcoat was named Dental Alumnus of the Year in 2017.“Both have contributed significantly to dentistry as a whole, and to the School of Dentistry, where they both have taught and mentored students,” said Jefcoat, whose private practice is Madison Periodontics and Implantology in Madison. “They have worked hard in organized dentistry to protect it, and to push it forward as a profession.”Gandy earned his physical therapy degree in 1981 from the School of Health Related Professions on the UMMC campus, then practiced at the Hattiesburg Clinic. His career shifted when he returned to school at the University of Southern Mississippi to take prerequisite courses so that he could apply for admission to the School of Dentistry.His decision wasn’t driven by a desire to bypass physical therapy, but instead by his wife Tammy, who he met when she was a SHRP dental hygiene student, and by the dental practice that employed her after graduation.“It was through that influence that I went into dentistry,” said Gandy, who earned his bachelor of science in biology from USM in 1984 and enrolled in the School of Dentistry that same year. “I enjoyed physical therapy, but I had an itch to further my education in dentistry.”He started the program with plans to become a general dentist, but “I really fell in love with oral surgery,” Gandy said. He completed his residency at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.Gandy’s ties to the School of Dentistry remain strong. He’s been a part-time clinical faculty member since 1994 and today is an associate clinical professor of oral-maxillofacial surgery and pathology.The School of Dentistry recently honored Gandy through creation of a development fund that bears Gandy’s name and those of an additional three fellow oral surgeons who are practicing in the Jackson metro area. The Outstanding Faculty Award in recognition of Dr. Jeffrey Brown, Dr. Stephen Gandy, Dr. George May and Dr. Daniel Quon goes to a full-time faculty member chosen by the D4 dental class as the most impactful teacher over the course of the DMD program.A biology graduate of the University of Mississippi, Caskey completed a residency in periodontics at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. He chose periodontics as his specialty because of “the surgery aspect – the blending of dentistry, science and surgery.“I want to help people save teeth, or to replace them with dental implants,” Caskey said.Caskey practiced with his father, periodontist Dr. Charles Caskey, but took over their practice in 2017 as sole owner. A clinical assistant professor in the Department of Periodontics and Preventive Sciences, he gives back to the school by teaching students one afternoon a week.The elder Caskey is also a familiar face at the School of Dentistry: he’s an associate professor in the Department of Periodontics and Preventive Science.“Growing up around dentistry was definitely part of it,” the younger Caskey said of choosing his career path. “I knew I wanted to do something in medicine, and this seemed like the right touch … getting to work with your hands, treat people, and have your own business and be part of the community.”Dentistry runs even deeper in the Caskey family. Curtis Caskey’s wife, Dr. Lauren Santarufo, practices general dentistry in Jackson. His sister, Dr. Mary Caskey Ousley, practices general dentistry in Laurel.Caskey counts as his mentors his dad and former School of Dentistry faculty member Dr. Frank Serio. “They are probably my two biggest influences,” Caskey said. “Dr. Serio taught the surgery class, and that really solidified my desire to be a periodontist.”During his D3 and D4 years, Caskey served as his class’ president. “It was fun to be able to represent my class and to look out for our group.”Sons Thomas and Joseph keep the Caskey family busy, along with their border collie Panda. “She was our first kid,” Caskey said.Teaching at the School of Dentistry is part of Gandy’s retirement, and so is traveling with Tammy to see their two children in Baton Rouge and Chattanooga, and to take in concerts featuring classic rock and roll bands.“We like to refer to it as our ‘nursing home tour.’ We hope to see as many as we can before either they go to the nursing home, or we do,” Gandy said.