UTHealth Snapshot: Garrett inspired by students, teaching

Fred Garrett, D.D.S., joined the faculty of Department of Orthodontics at UTHealth School of Dentistry 45 years ago and has seen a tremendous amount of change over the years. Through it all, his commitment to education and giving back to the profession have remained constant.

Fred Garrett, D.D.S.,
Clinical Professor
UTHealth School of Dentistry
45 years of service

What originally interested you in UTHealth?

I don’t think there is any way I could possibly repay what orthodontics has given me over the last 52 years. So I think part of that (interest in teaching) is because I watched my parents and I know how dedicated they were to teaching. So teaching one day a week is really special to me. When Dr. Al Westfall asked me to join to faculty it wasn’t hard for me to say yes. I think it has also assisted me in maintaining a razor focus on orthodontics. As changes have come down through the 52 years – and there have been tons and tons of changes – I have to keep up with all of these changes in order to relay all of it to my students. I’ve trained more than 350 orthodontists in the years that I’ve been at UTHealth and these are people who are really wonderful. It has been a pleasure doing that.

What keeps you excited about the university?

It is a total package. One, the orthodontic department is fantastic from top to bottom. Two, it is a way for me to give back. You can’t be an orthodontist without standing on the shoulders of a few people who at one point in time dedicated their career time to be an instructor. I also really enjoy working with the students. It keeps my battery charged, if you will.

What is your greatest accomplishment? 

In July I will have been married for 54 years, so that is one huge accomplishment. I really consider 52 years of continuous practice a major accomplishment. In June I will be 80 years old. So a few of my friends who I play golf with ask me when I am going to retire. I say that as long as my hands don’t shake and my mind is quick and I enjoy going to the office every day, why would I want to retire? Dentists are blessed to be in a profession where we can control our own destiny. We can practice as long as we want or as long as we are able. We don’t have to retire at 55 or 65. I think that one of my major accomplishments is that I’ve been able to practice a long time. I’ve treated my grandchildren and I’ve had patients tell me that I’m not allowed to retire until I treat their grandchildren. It is very neat to have your patients ask that of you.

What is the greatest life lesson you’ve learned? 

That for most things in life you have to lead by example. When you do that with the integrity and fortitude required, good things happen.

What is your favorite thing about your job? 

I really enjoy my time with my students. I also enjoy working with the alumni association and fostering relationships that help our department grow. I want my students to know that it is their responsibility to give back and they do. That’s the nice thing about it, they do. Over 60 percent of our students have given back in some form. Usually, if you can get 30 to 33 percent of a group to participate, then you’re doing well. So our students are really stepping up to the plate.

What would you like others to know about your work?

We have, arguably, one of the best orthodontic departments in the United States. I will put our students toe-to-toe against any students in the United States. We have over 280 applicants for seven positions. At the end of the day we have the ability to choose from a pool that is pretty awesome. We are blessed to be able to pick and work with some really outstanding students.

What would you like others to know about UTHealth?

This is a family that welcomes you. I didn’t go to school here but being asked to join the faculty is something special to me. I told myself that I would be the best orthodontics professor I could be and now if you ask anyone who knows me they think I’m a graduate of UT. At the end of the day it is not hard to represent this department. It is such a strong department.