Fall 2004 Table of Contents
Message from the Dean

Dean Michael C. Alfano

Consider the following higher education scenario: A curriculum that is not keeping pace with advances in knowledge and technology; an education infrastructure, including academic, clinical, and research space, that does not support the needs and expectations of society; and an educational philosophy that is directed primarily toward addressing today’s issues and challenges, rather than oriented toward the future. That is exactly the situation facing dental education in America.

During the past decade, biomedical research, approaches to the treatment of disease, and the delivery of health care have all undergone profound changes. Although the dental curriculum has been periodically revised and improved, the basic approach to dental education has remained largely the same as it was in 1926, when the publication of the Gies Report argued successfully for changing the dental education paradigm from a trade school/apprenticeship model to a university-based, scientifically supported system designed to be on a par with medical education. The fact that the basic paradigm is nearly 80 years old raises the question: Is the traditional dental curriculum right for our modern world?

Is it really appropriate, considering how much has happened since 1926, that dental education is not inter-disciplinary, whereas healthcare clinical practice and clinical research often require explicit interdisciplinary efforts? Is it acceptable that dental students continue to compartmentalize the basic science, preclinical, and clinical phases of their education in neat but separate boxes? Is it appropriate that the dental curriculum is bursting at the seams with the addition of more and more major topics, while inadequate time is allocated to subjects designed to educate students to function competently in today’s biologically, pharmacologically, and technologically driven healthcare environment?

As if all that were not enough, consider that the production of dentists is not keeping pace with population growth; that only one percent of dental students show an interest in academic dentistry versus 30 percent of medical students who express interest in careers in teaching medicine; and that escalating educational costs and mounting student indebtedness threaten to topple the entire dental education enterprise. The conclusion is inescapable: A crisis in oral health care is imminent and the only way to avert it is to reform dental education.

In this issue of Global Health Nexus we examine the pressing need for change in dental education and some of the varied ways in which this can occur.

Over the past several years, NYUCD has made change a strategic priority by introducing a number of innovations designed to improve the quality, efficiency and relevance of dental education, and to help practitioners keep pace with emerging trends and issues so that they can become more successful. These include placing the entire curriculum on DVD; building a high-tech clinical simulation and laboratory technology center; introducing the Invisalign® orthodontic technique, digital radiography, and Diagnodent® into the predoctoral curriculum; creating both an online oral cancer screening and detection course and an online resource guide to bioterrorism preparedness; and offering increasingly sophisticated continuing education programs, including interactive international videoconferences. Still more dramatic developments are underway in anatomy, curriculum design, practice management, and technology, and this issue showcases them. But more important, the College is in active collaboration with other groups to reform the national model for dental education.

In keeping with this theme, you will find a special report on “The Necessity for Major Reform in Dental Education,” which came out of a salon convened last August by the Santa Fe Group to outline the factors that have produced the impending crisis and to plan strategies for major change and reform.

The Santa Fe Group is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group, which seeks to advance the goal of shaping the future of health care through action-oriented pathfinding with a passion for the public good. As one of the founders of the Santa Fe Group, I was privileged to help organize and conduct the August salon, which brought together 60 opinion leaders in dentistry and other healthcare professions at the newly named Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry at the University of the Pacific in San Francisco. Participants included the President of the American Dental Association (ADA); the Assistant U.S. Surgeon General and the nation’s Chief Dental Officer; 14 dental school deans; the Executive Director of the American Dental Education Association (ADEA); corporate and industry representatives, including a number of CEOs, private dental practitioners, dental hygienists, nurses, physicians, educators, and insurers; and officers of public policy organizations.

In addition, this issue brings news of the amazing growth in research activity on our campus, a trend underscored by the quadrupling of our federally funded research to nearly $10 million* in less than four years. Additional points of pride include articles on our flawless accreditation site visit; on our students, faculty, and staff, who were honored with a wide range of awards; and on the impressive progress we continue to make in attracting major philanthropy.

A special feature is this issue’s “Practicing for LifeSM” column, in which you’ll find the first in a series of practice management columns by Dr. Roger P. Levin, arguably the leading dental practice management consultant in the world. Dr. Levin and his consulting firm, The Levin Group, recently joined forces with NYUCD to help our clinics function efficiently and to design clinical practice management education for our students, faculty, and the practicing profession.

I hope that all of you dentists, alumni, staff, and friends enjoy this issue of Global Health Nexus featuring programs and activities designed to keep dental education at NYU relevant and exciting in the 21st century.

*This figure represents funding received after August 31, 2004.