Michèle J. Saunders

Michèle J. Saunders is a professor of Medicine, Dentistry and Dental Hygiene at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. She also is the director of the South, West and Panhandle Consortium Geriatric Education Center and co-director of the Geriatric Medicine and Dentistry Fellowship Program.

Saunders was the first development board professor of clinical dentistry and chief of the Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology at that institution from 1993 to 2002. She also is associate director of the Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center at the Audie L. Murphy Division of the South Texas Veterans Health Care System in San Antonio.

She is a triple alumna of the University of Pennsylvania — bachelor's degree in 1973, doctor of dental medicine degree in 1980, and master's degree 1981. In 1982, she was one of the first in the United States to be awarded a two-year geriatric fellowship by the Department of Veterans Affairs. During the fellowship, she earned her master's of public health degree from the Loma Linda University School of Public Health and began serving on the Board of the American Society for Geriatric Dentistry (ASGD). She later served on the Board of the Federation of Special Care Dentistry, becoming ASGD president in 1993. Saunders produced the ASGD manuals and audiovisuals that guide dental office teams and nursing facility staff on how to implement dental programs in nursing facilities; these materials have been adopted by the World Health Organization for use in developed countries. 

Saunders is a national and international expert in

  • geriatric health education;
  • faculty training in education, curriculum and program development, and evaluation;
  • minority elderly health promotion; and

She also is a consultant to a number of state and federal programs and national associations.

She has conducted research on the oral health status of minority and veteran elders, and, from 1993-2001, she directed the $3.7 million Research Center on Oral Health in Aging. This study of oral health among San Antonio's elderly population was titled "Oral Health: San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging." Saunders is a past chair of the Clinical Medicine section of the Gerontological Society of America and section editor of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

In 2003, she was named the Joseph C. Valley Gerontological Professional of the Year for "exceptional contributions to promoting gerontology and geriatrics through research, education, clinical training, and community outreach." This award was given to Saunders for her "outstanding contributions to geriatrics, and especially to geriatric dentistry locally [in Texas] as well as nationally," to recognize her "distinguished professional achievements and to honor [her] as a pioneer in the field of geriatric dentistry."