Message from the Herman Robert Fox Dean

Charles N. Bertolami, DDS DMedSc

In the aftermath of a report issued in 2001 by The Institute of Medicine (IOM)-the nation’s highest authority on issues of biomedical science, medicine, and health-many health sciences schools, including the NYU College of Dentistry, have sought to recast their approach to educating future healthcare providers. That report noted that "Between the care we have and the care we could have, lies not just a gap, but a chasm." This observation, coupled with growing evidence of increasingly poor indicators of health, despite living in an age of managed care and an information explosion, has made it impossible to ignore the decreasing relevance of traditional health sciences education.

The need to rethink the dental education paradigm, in particular, is underscored by the growing importance that the National Institute of Dental Research (NIDCR) is giving to the role of dentists in addressing systemic health concerns, as exemplified by NIDCR-funded interventional studies aimed at further clarifying the relationship between periodontal disease and low-birth-weight infants, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Given these circumstances, NYUCD has charted a path aimed at producing the kind of dentist that we believe the 21st century demands: A clinician who is not only a caregiver, but also a sophisticated consumer of research, a healthcare professional who is comfortable working in an interdisciplinary and interprofessional context, a humanist, an information specialist, and a lifelong learner. A key ingredient in this mix is an increased emphasis on both primary care and prevention and on service learning, which seeks good and meaningful ways to broaden our students' experience outside the walls of the college as well as within them.

The bottom line is this: A mouth doesn’t walk into a dental office, a person does. That mouth just happens to drag a whole body along with it-and a tremendous opportunity is lost for enhancing overall health when we act as if our responsibility is confined to a disembodied mouth. I think the imagery is compelling, and it’s the basis for the innovations being introduced at NYUCD.

Inspired by the IOM's challenge to help narrow the chasm between "the care we have and the care we could have," NYUCD in recent years has forged a number of new educational approaches, many of them powered by computer technology. In this issue of Global Health Nexus, we are pleased to highlight several of these programs, all of which reflect NYUCD's commitment to excellence in teaching and improved levels of patient care.

In that regard, I am pleased to call your attention to an article entitled "NYU Academy of Health Educators to Be Established," which outlines plans for a collaborative model specifically focused on teaching excellence which will bring together NYU's College of Dentistry and its College of Nursing, the School of Medicine, the College of Arts and Science, and the Wagner School of Public Service.

We also take a look at one of our nation's newest dental schools, the Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health, and how it is pushing the envelope of curricular reform. And there's much more, including the presentation of a new Strategic Plan for the Colleges of Dentistry and Nursing; research breakthroughs, including an article on the impact of biomaterials research on the future of dental practice; and a celebration of members of our academic community, including two who recently received the University's top awards for excellence in teaching and administration.

On other fronts, NYUCD continues to be engaged in a number of outreach efforts--both national and international--to forge exciting new alliances, partnerships, and opportunities for alumni volunteerism. Through them, we are seeing rich examples of synergy and clear pathways for continued and future collaboration.

We also continue to benefit from the generosity of alumni and friends, who are helping to maintain the high levels of philanthropy that have fueled our aspirations in recent years. In today's environment of economic uncertainty and challenge, it’s impossible to predict the future philanthropic climate, but we are doing everything in our power to continue to build an institution worthy of the ongoing support of all those--alumni, faculty, students, administrators, staff and friends--who have enabled us to come so far.

I hope that you enjoy the kaleidoscope of views that this issue of Global Health Nexus brings you, and I wish you and your families all the joys of summer.