Fall 2004 Table of Contents
A Behind-the-Scenes Look at a
Flawless Accreditation Site Visit

Richard I. Vogel, DMD, Executive Associate Dean for Academic Programs; Professor of Periodontics, Diagnostic Science and Urgent Care and of Oral Medicine

In order to be accredited by the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), a specialized body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, all U.S. dental schools must undergo an intensive evaluation of their education programs every seven years.* In November 2003, NYUCD had its scheduled accreditation site visit, an occasion which resulted in a flawless outcome for all programs evaluated: the DDS program; advanced education programs in endodontics, orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics, and prosthodontics; the advanced education program in general dentistry; and the education program in dental hygiene. In this article, Dr. Richard I. Vogel, the chief architect of the accredition site visit planning processs, talks about the experience.

Although the formal planning process didn’t begin officially until fall 2001, I think it’s fair to say that the mindset required for the Accreditation Site Visit began on the day that Dean Alfano took office, in September 1998. Soon after, he brought together the faculty, students, and staff to develop new mission, vision, and values statements describing who we are, what we do, and what we prize. These newly formulated concepts, in turn, inspired the development of a five-year strategic plan for the College and created the context in which the accreditation planning process could take root.

When I came aboard in January 2000, I initiated an informal assessment of where the College stood with respect to the CODA standards for each of the programs to be evaluated by the site visitors. Based on that assessment, the College developed goals and measurable objectives for the DDS program, the postdoctoral programs that were up for accreditation, and the dental hygiene program. Like the DDS program, the postgraduate and dental hygiene programs totally revised their curricula and came up with competency and proficiency expectations and new methodologies for evaluating students’ progress in achieving those benchmarks.

For the predoctoral DDS program, the College formulated 32 College-wide competencies and approximately 100 educational objectives. Subsequently, an ad hoc faculty and student subcommittee of the curriculum committee worked together to design a new, four-year, “competency-based” curriculum whose focus would be a more integrated approach to learning and to patient care, and outcomes that would be, among other things, a critical-thinking, problem-solving clinician, who could communicate appropriately with other healthcare providers in providing comprehensive patient care.

The new curriculum emphasizes ethics and professionalism, students’ ability to evaluate literature, health promotion, and humanity, as well as technology. In tandem with the new curriculum came a reorganization of the College’s clinical program, with the third- and fourth-year students being integrated into what are now 14 group practices, and new, measurable standards of care being implemented so that the College can ascertain progress in patient treatment outcomes. The new curriculum was approved by the faculty, introduced in the 2001-2002 academic year, and put in place over a three-year period.

All of this activity was taking place in the context of overall institutional change that Dean Alfano had initiated early in his tenure, beginning with the naming of NYUCD’s first Quality Assurance Officer and the establishment of an Office of Quality Assurance to ensure that accountability became the watchword for everyone who worked and studied at NYUCD. Also, a new emphasis was placed on attracting the best and the brightest students to all programs.

Simultaneously, NYUCD began an aggressive recruiting campaign. We recruited close to 50 full-time equivalent (FTE) faculty, approximately half of whom are full-time faculty and include many nationally and internationally known scholars. Together with our outstanding existing faculty, the new recruits have made extraordinary contributions to enhancing the quality of our education program. The College also recruited an associate dean for research, under whose leadership NYUCD has soared to a level of competitiveness that is expected this year to place us among the top 10 dental schools receiving federal research funding.

With respect to infrastructure, since the previous accreditation cycle, which was in 1996, the College had invested close to $30 million in construction and renovation of facilities and has plans to raise and expend $65 million more by 2010. The results speak for themselves: a new clinical simulation and laboratory technology center, the Bluestone Center for Clinical Research, the Rosenthal Institute for Aesthetic Dentistry, and an expanded library technology center and student study center, with more facilities to come.

In September 2001, the Dean charged three steering committees — one for the dental education program, one for the advanced education programs, and one for the dental hygiene program — with initiating the College’s formal self-study of each of these programs in preparation for the November 2003 site visit. Each of these committees organized working committees consisting of well over 100 faculty and students to assess the status of the College with respect to its ability to meet or exceed the CODA standards in the context of our own internal mission, vision, and values. The committees were also charged with looking at the effectiveness of the College in meeting its goals and objectives for students, patient care, faculty, and research, and, if they found deficiencies, with submitting recommendations for an action plan to correct them. In short, not only the College’s curriculum, but everything came under the microscope.

Approximately four months into their tasks, the steering committees delivered their first report, which did identify some deficiencies and included proposals to put appropriate infrastructure in place to correct them wherever they were found. By November 2002, the third draft of the self-study was circulated among faculty, students, staff, and alumni representatives, and two outside consultants were invited to review the self study and to meet with students, faculty, and staff; in effect, to conduct a “mock” site visit. We collected all suggestions and used them to make additional changes to our programs and to the self-study report.

In May, 2003, Dean Alfano hosted a full-day retreat at the College to ensure that the NYUCD community would be fully acquainted with the submitted self-study report. By summer 2003, the self study was completed and the internal recommendations that we had given ourselves had been implemented. In August we sent the self- study to the 21 consultants and staff who were scheduled to visit NYUCD from November 4 - 6, 2003.

When this process began, we made the determination that we would take an honest look at ourselves from every angle of our education, patient care, and research enterprise so that we would not only be assured of meeting the standards set by CODA, but also our own goals and objectives, which far exceeded those of CODA. By the time we submitted the self-study report, we felt very confident that we had achieved our aim.

Basically, there are four “grades” that the CODA visitors can assign: (1) a recommendation, which means that the institution has not met the standard or substandard; (2) a suggestion, which means that the standard has been met, but that there is room for improvement; (3) an acknowledgement that the standards have been met; and (4) the highest “grade,” a commendation reflecting that the standards have been far exceeded.

NYUCD received zero recommendations for improvements in any of our programs and 27 commendations recognizing the quality of our clinical care and basic science programs, research enterprise, and the collegial and cooperative manner in which students, faculty, and staff interact. The site visitors were enormously impressed by the progress that NYUCD had made since the previous accreditation site visit in 1996. To understand the extent of that progress, consider that, in 1996, NYUCD had received 43 recommendations; a true sea change!

Other site visit report commendations praised NYUCD’s effective leadership role within the University-at-large, its dynamic strategic plan and leadership team, its commitment to the development of its entire community, and its comprehensive and well-coordinated biomedical sciences curriculum, among many others.

Wonderful as it was to achieve a flawless accreditation report, all of us at NYUCD recognize that it was a milestone, not an end product. We view ourselves moving forward along a continuum marked by equally challenging and exciting new goals and objectives. These will include placing a greater emphasis on practice management and on implants in our DDS program; further expanding our research programs; continuing to grow our continuing dental education and faculty-staff development programs; deepening our service commitment and outreach to local, national, and international communities; and partnering with other institutions both in the U.S. and overseas. NYUCD will also continue to leverage its location in the media capital of the world in support of such programs as oral cancer awareness and detection, the links between systemic and oral health, and access to care, utilizing novel and creative healthcare delivery systems. We are on a quest to transform not only our College, but, indeed, the profession, in order to meet the societal challenges facing us in the 21st century. I believe that most people would agree that we’re off to a great start.

*The advanced education program in oral and maxillofacial surgery was not included because it is accredited every five years, rather than every seven years. The program will be site visited in November 2004.