With the achievement in 2003 of the completion of the sequencing of the roughly three billion letters of DNA that spell out the genetic code of our species, the field of genomics emerged as one of the most important areas in the biological sciences. Genomics—the study of all the genes within an organism and their interactions with one another as well as within the environment—has led to great advances in our understanding of the biological information contained in our own genome and in those of many other organisms. These advances, in turn, have opened an entirely new era in medicine and, not surprisingly, in dentistry.
In this issue of Global Health Nexus, we explore some of the ways in which genomics is influencing dental research and the implications of this research for patient care. We are privileged to begin this section with an article by Harold Slavkin of the University of Southern California (USC), who provides an in-depth introduction to the subject, along with personal reflections on the history of the human gene sequencing project and his predictions for the future of dentistry in the age of genomics.
We are also honored to include an interview with the distinguished scientist Bruce Paster of The Forsyth Institute and Harvard University, who is the leading authority on methods for the rapid identification and enumeration of oral microorganisms and their roles in oral and systemic diseases.
Rounding out this section is a discussion among senior NYU College of Dentistry faculty who are utilizing genomics in their research. These faculty members speak frankly about the challenges of interpreting the flood of data that has emerged from the sequencing of the human genome and about the possibilities for creating new knowledge and improved patient care based on these data.
The level of scientific sophistication reflected in these articles permeates and elevates the education of students in ways that can only occur where there is a commitment to cutting-edge research. Students at dental schools with such a commitment get something more from their education, and they will almost certainly use this experience as they proceed into various private practice and institutional settings.
This issue of Global Health Nexus also features a program that is unique to NYUCD in utilizing the expertise of psychologists to study the relation between the level of verbal and physical aggression that occurs between parents and the extent to which oral health problems occur in their children. The program, described on here, has great potential for creating new knowledge, strengthening community, and expanding resources for change and improved public health.
In this issue you will also learn about research being conducted collaboratively by the NYU College of Dentistry and its College of Nursing that has found that dentists and dental hygienists could screen a staggering 20 million Americans for chronic physical illnesses. Equally important, collaborative research shows that blood from periodontal disease can be used to screen for diabetes.
As always, you will meet some of our remarkable students, faculty, staff, administrators, and alumni. All are working to bring innovative ideas to the forefront of our academic enterprise and to provide an environment of excellence in which they can thrive. In this regard, I extend my deepest thanks to our donors, whose generosity and support have helped propel these ideas into actions. An alumnus who typifies these qualities is Dr. Elliott M. Moskowitz, Class of 1972, whose recent $1.2 million gift will create the Elliott M. Moskowitz Orthodontic Wing. You can read about Dr. Moskowitz's reasons for making his extraordinary gift here.
Also of note is a progress report on the dental school's expansion into a new, interdisciplinary building that we are constructing at 433 First Avenue, across the street from our existing facility. Outfitted with the latest technology for learning and discovery, the new building is designed specifically to promote an educationally stimulating, professionally collaborative environment. To learn about the new building's many distinctive features and how you can help speed its momentum, be sure to read the story here.
I hope you will agree with me that the articles in this issue of Global Health Nexus illustrate an important point about the NYU College of Dentistry: Here are researchers, educators, students, forward-thinking administrators, staff, and benefactors, all of whom share a commitment to improving the quality of life for our patients and an exhilarating working environment for our community.