All About the People

The hands, minds and hearts of those that help make Detroit Mercy Dental a collaborative culture of influencers, learners and leaders

By Rhonda Evans, B.F.A.

As the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry approaches 90 years of providing cutting-edge dental education, we celebrate the people who have enriched the School through hard work, dedication and innovation.

Rooted in Jesuit and Mercy traditions, Detroit Mercy Dental is committed to developing competent, socially and ethically sensitive healthcare professionals who are dedicated to patient care and community wellness. By integrating scholarly activity, evidence-based teaching and service, we foster a forward-thinking and inclusive learning environment. While this remains our mission, it would be unsuccessful if not for the hands, minds and hearts of those who have made Detroit Mercy Dental the collaborative culture of influencers, learners and leaders.

Day after day, faculty, staff and administrators uphold the vision of advancing health in a diverse and global society. From receptionists to dental assistants, patient care coordinators to residents, clinical professors to staff members, administrators to IT technicians, assistant deans to supervisors, the people who make up Detroit Mercy Dental are integral to the success of the School.

Because of our dedicated team, we have made continual educational, clinical and technological advances that benefit our patients, students and community. These initiatives take knowledge, flexibility and dedication that the people of Detroit Mercy Dental exhibit daily. Regardless of position, camaraderie and teamwork is evident in every way.

The following 10 employees differ in position, years of service and area of expertise, but all share the same passion – serving others. The individual stories tell how they came to work for the School, what they have learned and how they have grown.

As we navigate through the next 90 years, one thing is for sure: our success is the culmination of efforts by many. We are – All About the People.


Detroit Mercy Dental is committed to developing competent, socially and ethically sensitive healthcare professionals who are dedicated to patient care and community wellness.


Candace Ziglor

Position: Clinical Assistant Professor | Division: Practice Essentials and Interprofessional Education | Category: Full-time Faculty | Campus: Corktown Campus | Years of Service: 2 years


“Working at Detroit Mercy Dental has helped me to realize my dream of shaping the minds of future professionals.”


Clinical Assistant Professor Candace Ziglor joined the department of Practice Essentials and Interprofessional Relations at Detroit Mercy Dental in 2019.

“Working at Detroit Mercy Dental has helped me to realize my dream of shaping the minds of future professionals,” said Ziglor, a social worker and licensed therapist.

She regularly collaborates with fellow faculty and administrators, crafting courses to help students improve their communication and overall chairside manner with patients. Her teachings promote diversity and inclusion and explain how an empathetic approach can foster quality patient-provider relationships.Her courses also provide learning experiences that teach students how to identify and understand biases, mental illnesses, the effects of abuse and more.

Her teachings extend far beyond the classroom as she serves as a valuable resource for patients. She is often on the clinic floor interacting with patients, making them aware of the services she and the school can provide. Ziglor has assisted many patients through disparities to access care, including transportation to and from dental appointments, treatment for the uninsured and under insured and even language translation services. She also helps patients find essential resources such as housing, food assistance and more.

Among her various notable achievements, Ziglor presented “Celebrating Diversity Through Teaching Strategies and Administrative Policies” at the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) conference in 2021. She was also selected to present, “The Degradation of the School Social Worker” at the National Association of Black Social Workers Annual Conference in 2020.

Ziglor recognizes her vital role in helping to educate ethical, socially competent clinicians and the unique perspective social work brings to the profession.

“Prior to working at Detroit Mercy Dental, I never saw myself as quite the advocate that I have become in my short time here,” she said. “I have learned that when a need arises, meeting that need might require new knowledge/skills and sharing that knowledge with others. I have been privileged to be able to do so and hope to continue in that work.”

In addition to her faculty appointment at the School, Ziglor maintains a private practice where she offers counseling, coaching and training for children, adolescents and adults.

Robert Niskar

Position: Adjunct Faculty | Division: Clinical Dentistry | Category: Part-time Faculty | Campus: Corktown Campus | Years of Service: 15 years


Niskar is one of a few with ties to all four School of Dentistry campuses. As a dental student, he attended classes on the first and second Jefferson campuses and has worked as a faculty member on the Outer Drive and Corktown campuses.


Clinical Faculty and Affiliate Assistant Professor Robert Niskar joined Detroit Mercy Dental in 2006 after retiring from 40 years of general practice. Niskar, a 1966 graduate of University of Detroit, is also a United States Air Force veteran. After serving, he ran a private practice for 38 years in Warren, Mich. Upon retiring from private practice, Niskar began teaching DS3s and DS4s on the clinic floor.

“I don’t consider this work,” he said. “It’s more of a hobby.”

Niskar is one of a few with ties to all four School of Dentistry campuses. As a dental student, he attended classes on the first and second Jefferson campuses and has worked as a faculty member on the Outer Drive and Corktown campuses.

He has been voted Outstanding Faculty member multiple times and has been selected as marshal and hooder for several graduating classes. “It’s been very rewarding to give back to the younger generation,” he said. “It keeps me young, and I have never had more fun.”

Alesia James

Position: Appointment & Receptionist Supervisor | Department: Dental Clinic Operations | Category: Full-time Administrator | Campus: Corktown Campus | Years of Service: 31 years


Appointment & Receptionist Supervisor Alesia James began her career at Detroit Mercy Dental’s Jefferson campus in 1989 as a screening and emergency technician. She later became the School of Dentistry’s first floater, making her uniquely qualified for the various positions she eventually went on to occupy. Over the past 31 years, James has held multiple positions including patient care coordinator, University Health Center clinic manager and patient care coordinator supervisor.

In 1987, James received a certificate in dental assisting from Michigan Paraprofessional. She later earned a bachelor’s degree in legal administration from University of Detroit Mercy in 2004 by taking evening and weekend courses, all while raising two young children.

“I’m honored to say that I have been here to assist at least 30 dental student classes graduate,” she said. “When the dental students walk across the stage, it’s like watching your kids and you feel so proud of them for their accomplishments.”

James attributes her longevity at Detroit Mercy Dental to the ability to adapt to change, saying, “what works today may not work tomorrow.”

Donald Sherman

Position: Adjunct Faculty | Division: Graduate Education | Category: Part-time Faculty | Campus: Corktown & UHC Campuses | Years of Service: 42 years


Adjunct faculty member Donald Sherman joined Detroit Mercy Dental in the department of Periodontology in 1967. Sherman graduated from University of Detroit School of Dentistry in

After graduating, he completed his periodontal residency at Boston University/Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, Mass., then served three years in the military as a general dentist during the Vietnam era.

Sherman has accomplished many notable achievements in his time at the school. Such achievements include 40 years of private practice (retiring in 2003), 24 years of adjunct faculty and being honored as the 2005 University of Detroit Mercy Dental Alumnus of the Year. He is a member of the Michigan Perio Association and served as its president from 1977-79. He is also a member of the Macomb Dental Society and served as its president from 1975-76. Sherman also trekked the mountains of Nepal and Peru at the age of 67!

As a long-standing faculty member and seasoned clinician, Sherman notes that despite improved materials and changing technology “the basics are still the same.”

When asked what life lessons he has learned from his time at Detroit Mercy Dental, Sherman replied as a true educator would: “There is always more to learn.”

Crystal Becker

Position: Assistant to the Dean | Department: Office of the Dean | Category: Full-time Administrator | Campus: Corktown Campus | Years of Service: 16 years


“Working at Detroit Mercy Dental has helped me become a better person and become more aware of diversity and inclusion.”


Crystal Becker, assistant to the dean, joined Detroit Mercy Dental in 2004. Becker, a certified dental assistant, earned her certification from Wayne County Community College in 2004 and began an externship in the orthodontic clinic at Detroit Mercy Dental. At the completion of her externship, she transitioned into the position of dental assistant/receptionist in faculty practice, where she worked for eight years.

“I have always felt supported and encouraged to continue my studies and grow as a person,” said Becker, who studied Administrative Information Management at Henry Ford Community College. Her additional training led to her becoming an administrative assistant in the Office of Biomedical Sciences, a position she held for six years. In 2019 she was promoted to her current position as the assistant to the dean.

“Working at Detroit Mercy Dental has helped me become a better person and become more aware of diversity and inclusion,” Becker said, adding she is “proud to be part of a school that educates socially competent students who provide care to those who need it most.”

Tenzin Dadul

Position: Director of Digital Imaging Integration and Clinical Assistant Professor | Division: Integrated Biomedical Sciences | Category: Full-time Faculty | Campus: Corktown Campus | Years of Service: 2 years


Dadul has aided Detroit Mercy Dental in transitioning into a more digitally integrated school…


Director of Digital Imaging Integration and Clinical Assistant Professor Tenzin Dadul joined Detroit Mercy Dental in 2019. Dadul moved to Detroit from North Carolina in search of a more diverse workplace and felt Detroit Mercy was a “perfect fit.” He appreciates the positive environment, work-life balance and the diversity of faculty, staff, administration and students.

Dadul has aided Detroit Mercy Dental in transitioning into a more digitally integrated school, benefiting current and future students. As the first director of digital imaging integration, his efforts have helped bring such digital integrations as 3-D printers and new Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT) and intraoral scanners. “The future is even more bright for our students because of this technology,” Dadul said.

He has received a host of awards and accomplished many notable achievements during his time at Detroit Mercy Dental. In 2020, he created and launched a new CBCT and 3-D Imaging course and integrated digital dentistry and virtual treatment planning for dental students, residents and faculty. Dadul successfully completed an intensive leadership training at Harvard University in 2021 and became a Fellow of the International College of Dentists in 2021.

Dadul has received a variety of faculty of the year awards including Outstanding Didactic Faculty by the classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022. He also mentors thirdand fourth-year students, helping them plan their career paths after graduation.

Dadul was given his name by the Dalai Lama, and credits him for the various works he has been able to provide. In conjunction with the Dalai Lama, Dadul runs a yearly cancer medical and dental program in Nepal, Tibet and India providing dental services to students in underprivileged schools and communities.

Charles Laird

Position: Dental Clinic IT Director | Department: Information Technology | Category: Full-time Administrator | Campus: Corktown Campus | Years of Service: 24 years


In the mid ’90s and early 2000s, Laird wrote some of the first treatment planning software programs for the School of Dentistry


Charles “Chuck” Laird joined Detroit Mercy in 1996 as a student employee in the library of the McNichols campus as a database cataloging expert. His mother, Mary Laird, referred him to the job, as she was a purchaser for the library for 21 years.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Detroit Mercy in 1997, Laird was hired as a student programmer in the IT department in the School of Dentistry. Since then, Laird has held various positions within the School of Dentistry IT department, such as software programmer, hardware technician manager/trainer, developer/software analyst and most currently, Dental Clinic IT director.

“Not only has working at Detroit Mercy Dental allowed me to be me and interact with many wonderful and interesting people, but it has also given me the opportunity to travel to various dental schools across the country,” Laird said.

He has served on the board of the Consortium for Dental Electronic Records (CEDR) since 2016 and is currently the acting president. He has presented at several national conferences, universities and colleges about the software development of axiUm. He is currently enrolled in the Data Analytics master’s program at University of Detroit Mercy and is expected to complete his studies in 2026.

In the mid ’90s and early 2000s, Laird wrote some of the first treatment planning software programs for the School of Dentistry.

“Two life lessons I have learned during my time at Detroit Mercy Dental are the art of perseverance and the meaning of dedication,” he said. “Detroit Mercy Dental has some of the most dedicated faculty, staff, students and administrators I have ever seen. Everyone is willing to go the extra mile to complete a project or to just help out a colleagues who needs a hand.”

Janiece Flores-Davies

Position: Clinical Assistant Professor and Co-Director of Dental Hygiene Admissions | Division: Dental Hygiene | Category: Full-time Faculty | Campus: Corktown Campus | Years of Service: 8 years


“The relationships with the students are what keeps me going… I love being a positive influence and teaching them critical skills”


Clinical Assistant Professor Janiece Flores-Davies practiced dental hygiene for 22 years before deciding to return to school to complete her bachelor’s degree. With the help of clinical associate professor Marge Buehner, Flores-Davies chose the path of direct studies in teaching, which in 2013 landed her a position as a part-time faculty member while continuing to work in private practice.

In 2014, she earned her bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene from University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry. She later continued her education pursuit and earned a master’s degree in Educational Technology from Marygrove College in 2019.

Flores-Davies was awarded the Dental Hygiene Clinical Faculty award from the classes of 2016 and 2017.

“The relationships with the students are what keeps me going,” she said. “I love being a positive influence and teaching them critical skills.”

Once a student in the degree-completion program, Flores-Davies now serves as the program coordinator and works with transferring students, many of whom come from Canada.

During the disruption caused by COVID- 19, Flores-Davies single-handedly converted the once in-person dental hygiene orientation to an online format using the GO2 Orientation software. Her efforts have improved the dental hygiene orientation process, many of her innovations will stay in place postpandemic.

Jamie Currie-Douglas

Position: Patient Services Assistant | Department: Dental Clinic Operations | Category: Full-time Staff | Campus: Corktown Campus | Years of Service: 10 years


“If you are not helping someone, you aren’t doing anything of importance.”


Patient Services Assistant (PSA) Jamie Currie-Douglas joined Detroit Mercy Dental in 2011 as a floater. Currie-Douglas became a PSA in 2015. A typical month for her (as a PSA) includes one week of administrative work and three weeks on the clinic floor serving patients and students by scheduling appointments, processing payments and assisting faculty and students in four-handed dentistry.

It is all books at the Currie-Douglas home! Jamie is currently enrolled in the Human Resources program of University of Detroit Mercy and is expected to receive a bachelor’s degree in fall 2021. As well, her daughter, Khalia Douglas, received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Detroit Mercy in 2017 and plans to continue her studies at Detroit Mercy School of Law.

Currie-Douglas is a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success and appreciates being able to interact with a variety of people, cultures and religions at Detroit Mercy Dental.

What makes her most proud to work at the school is the ability to give back to the community. “If you are not helping someone,” she says, “you aren’t doing anything of importance.”

Tonya Zalenski

Position: Special Program Coordinator and Co-Director of Dental Hygiene Admissions | Division: Dental Hygiene | Category: Full-time Administrator | Campus: Corktown Campus | Years of Service: 9 years


“I enjoy so many aspects of working at Detroit Mercy Dental… the camaraderie with my colleagues, being able to assist the students with their clinical experiences … that helps patients conquer pain and regain oral health.”


Special Program Coordinator Tonya Zalenski joined Detroit Mercy Dental in 2012 as a part-time dental hygiene faculty member. She later transitioned into an administrative role working with both Clinic Administration and the Institute for Advanced Continuing Dental Education (CE). From 2015-16 Zalenski hosted CE courses, special events, and scheduled clinic time and rotations for D3 and D4 classes. In 2016 Zalenski became the co-director of dental hygiene admissions and began managing clinical rotations for all students within axiUm.

Zalenski, who is a 2009 graduate of the dental hygiene program, did not begin her professional career as a hygienist. Prior to hygiene school, her background was in software testing, where she worked for IBM and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC).

Her experience provided a foundation to meet the demands and challenges of scheduling clinical rotations for dental and dental hygiene classes during the height of the pandemic. This process required multiple levels of testing.

“The shifting semester dates, changes in requested rotations and clinic daily schedules did not allow me very much time to complete the schedules,” she said. “What would normally take me one month to complete (for each class), I was provided one to three weeks lead time to complete all classes for each semester. While the schedules may not have been delivered as soon as one would hope, they were delivered as quickly as I could finish them. The patience of staff and faculty, but mostly the students, helped a lot!”

Zalenski said all the people at Detroit Mercy have made an impact on her life. “Colleagues such as “Tee” and Mark from dispensary; Debra, Kimberly, and Amy from CE; and all of the faculty from Dental Hygiene have all had a profound impact on me and my enjoyment of my position within the University.”

Zalenski is an avid traveler. In June 2022, she will take part in a 70-mile pilgrimage, the Camino de Santiago, in Spain and has volunteered to push wheelchair users during the entire pilgrimage.

“I enjoy so many aspects of working at Detroit Mercy Dental,” she said. “The camaraderie with my colleagues, being able to assist the students with their clinical experiences, and being a ‘cog in the wheel’ that helps patients conquer pain and regain oral health.”