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NYU College of Dentistry Inaugurates Four-Year Curriculum in Terrorism Preparedness

--First U.S. Dental School to Mandate Student Terrorism Preparedness Training--

The NYU College of Dentistry has become the first dental school in the United States to implement a full, four-year curriculum in terrorism preparedness training that all dental students must take in order to graduate. “Our reasoning is based on two premises,” said Dr. Michael C. Alfano, dean of the NYU College of Dentistry. “First, that the country is vulnerable to catastrophic events originating as natural disasters, industrial accidents, or terrorist crimes; and second, that all graduates must know the early warning signs and symptoms of attack along with appropriate ways to respond to the needs of patients and staff, as well as how to interact with other health professionals and first responders to strengthen the community response.”

Dr. Dianne Rekow, director of translational research at the NYU College of Dentistry and chairperson of the college’s Bioterrorism and Catastrophe Response Task Force, led the development of the bioterrorism preparedness curriculum. “The program is designed to educate as well as to prepare future dentists to participate fully in community, state, and national biodefense teams,” said Dr. Rekow.

Beginning in fall 2003, students in all four years of the curriculum will learn specific aspects of terrorism preparedness and response:

• In their freshman year, students using the college facilities as a model will learn emergency response behaviors with regard to infection control, large-scale evacuation proceedures, and shelter-in-place requirements as part of their general dentistry course work.

• Sophomores in their microbiology courses will study general pathology and infectious diseases, with the goal of becoming knowledgeable about potential agents of bioterror (microbial, radiation, chemical), their actions and human responses.

• Students in their junior year, studying oral medicine, will study clinical signs of bioterror agents. They will learn the signs and symptoms that signal a bioterrorist attack, perform differential diagnosis between response to natural and to bioterror agents, and become knowledgeable about vaccination and antidote availability and policies.

• In their practice management courses, seniors will learn how to assess risk of attack, identify potential agents and how they might be used, describe likely modes of dissemination, identify signs and symptoms, communicate information to patients and the community, and consider their role in national, state, and local preparations and responses. In addition, the practice management course addresses office equipment and staff training in biodefense.

NYUCD has partnered with the US Army, in cooperation with the Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMS), to provide hands-on training in the medical management of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agent threats to complement the classroom education. Six second- and third-year students at the NYU College of Dentistry got a preview of things to come last summer when they participated in a weeklong Army training course at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Other participants included four medical students from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

According to Dr. Rekow, “the military experts were impressed by how quickly the students learned and applied their knowledge in mock triage and decontamination exercises. Their performance set the stage for ongoing civilian-military collaboration in catastrophe preparedness and response.”

NYUCD’s plans call for continuing to work closely with the military to build a cadre of dental graduates who will be able to respond appropriately within their communities in the event of a catastrophic public health crisis.

NYUCD has been in the lead involving the dental professions in responding to bioterrorism and mass casualty situations. This includes: working with the NYC Department of Health for the inclusion of dentists in the NYC emergency plan for mass inoculations for smallpox, which would call for about 2,000 dentists to receive certification to deliver the vaccine; sponsoring a Army training course for city health care professionals -- physicians and dentists -- in decontamination techniques, use of barrier devices/clothing, etc., in the event of a biological, chemical or radiological attack; the creation of an NYUCD Bioterrorism and Catastrophe Response Task Force to develop strategies and a structure for a coordinated, collaborative response effort to deal with the threat of terrorism, including bioterrorism, and other catastrophes.

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