Message from the Herman Robert Fox Dean

Charles N. Bertolami, DDS DMedSc

"Meet me at the clock." That's the famous four-sided, brass clock atop the Information Booth in the center of the main concourse at Grand Central Station, one of NYC's legendary transportation hubs.

New York's Chinatown, NYUCD benefits from solid cooperation with the Chinese American Dental Association, which facilitates interaction with the many dental schools in China.

Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. The Large Russian community in Brooklyn supports the newly formed Russian American Dental Association, which includes many NYUCD graduates

Given that the very survival of life on earth depends on biological diversity, I think it's safe to say that diversity and the ability to thrive go hand-in-hand. And when it comes to diversity, no city in the world can equal New York.

New York's extraordinary ethnic, racial, and cultural diversity is indivisible from its status as the world's premier global city, a city in which all religions are practiced, all languages spoken, all ethnic foods eaten, all lifestyles embraced. Indeed, it is impossible to imagine New York's energy and creativity without its diversity, the beacon continually drawing new talent and vitality from around the world.

In putting together this issue of Global Health Nexus, we found ourselves asking the question: "If diversity is key to New York's evolution and success as a great global city, is there something that this city can also teach us about healthcare, and, specifically, about ameliorating the problem of a lack of diversity among healthcare professionals?

With the US Census Bureau reporting that by 2023 more than half of all American children will be minorities, and the effects on health care of a lack of diversity becoming more apparent daily, the subject could not be timelier. Indeed, the 2004 Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Healthcare Workforce called the US "a nation at risk," citing the lack of minority professionals as a direct cause of a national crisis of lower quality health care and higher rates of illness and disability among a growing number of residents, and particularly among people of color. Also lagging, according to the report, are the percentages of minority students enrolled in medical, dental, and nursing programs, and the percentage of minority faculty at such schools.

Additional calls to action have been issued by The Institute of Medicine in its reports, Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health-Care (2002), and In the Nation's Compelling Interest: Ensuring Diversity in the Health-Care Workforce (2004). They all delivered a straightforward message: The lack of diversity in health care education is at the root of the problem of inequities in access to and quality of health care in the US.

At the NYU Colleges of Dentistry and Nursing, we believe that diversity can and must be achieved. Our commitment to diversity is based on five tenets:

  • Diversity is a formal part of all our jobs. It is a defining feature of higher education at its best and it encompasses the variety of personal experiences, values, and worldviews that arise from differences of culture and circumstance.
  • Openness to diversity flows from simple justice. The population is extremely diverse and will become more so. Achieving the aspiration of NYU as a global-network university is impossible without embracing diversity.
  • In diversity there is strength. This is a basic rule of nature and of life. The ability to call upon diverse people who embody different talents, perspectives, languages, cultures, and viewpoints lends agility and strength in responding to ever-changing circumstances.
  • Without diversity in the healing professions, it becomes impossible to fulfill our teaching mission. This transcends simply doing the right thing. It means that the education we provide will be inadequate unless all of our students understand, appreciate, and value at the deepest personal level the intrinsic importance and dignity of the human person--of all of the people they have committed their lives to serving.
  • Practitioners tend to return to practice in their communities of origin. Training more minorities to become health care professionals will help to reduce the inequities in access to care that we now see.

Building on these principles, NYUCD is developing a multifaceted approach to increasing diversity, an approach that emphasizes mentorship within our academic community and partnerships externally with local educational institutions with large numbers of underrepresented students, with the goal of helping them become doctors.

In keeping with the concept that increased diversity in health professions education is doable and that New York City's diversity exemplifies this principle, in this issue of Nexus we have invited a group of the most progressive thinkers in this area to consider what New York's diversity can teach us about health care.

All of our distinguished contributors are formidable leaders in their fields. They include Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Dr. Jeanne Sinkford, Associate Executive Director of the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) and Director of the ADEA Center for Equity and Diversity; Dr. John M. Palmer, Executive Director of the Harlem Hospital Center, and several of his colleagues; Dr. Francisco Ramos-Gomez, Professor and Director of the Graduate Program in Pediatric Dentistry at UCLA Los Angeles School of Dentistry and President of the Hispanic Dental Association; Dr. Howard Bailit, Professor Emeritus, Department of Community Medicine, University of Connecticut School of Medicine; Ms. Amy Knowles, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs and Admissions at the NYU College of Nursing; and Dr. Michael O'Connor, Executive Associate Dean for Administration and Finance at the NYU College of Dentistry.

In this issue of Global Health Nexus, you will also find news of the impressive achievements of our students, faculty, and staff in research, international affairs, philanthropy, outreach, and other areas. To give you an idea of the context in which their success is occurring, let me conclude with a brief overview of highlights of the past year:

  • In the area of student affairs, NYUCD continued to decrease its dependence on tuition. As a source of the College's operating funds, tuition dependence decreased from 72% just a few years ago to 58% today.
  • The applicant pool for the DDS curriculum remained robust and continued to increase. Indeed, while there was a 2.3% decrease in applications to dental schools nationwide in 2007-2008, applications to NYUCD increased by 3.4% last year.
  • Academic outcomes continued to improve as evidenced by student performance on Part I of the National Board Examination in Dentistry. The April 2008 report showed a failure rate for NYU students of 1.7%, compared with the national failure rate of 3.7%. Moreover, the retention rate for DDS students is nearly 100%. (see related story)
  • NYUCD also continued to improve its national research ranking among the nearly 60 dental schools in the nation, moving from 5th place to 4th place on the report published by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR).
  • Both global and domestic outreach continued to thrive, and soon a nursing van program, Feeling Good in Your Neighborhood, will be initiated.
  • The 2007-2008 year also saw significant capital improvements in the opening of three floors of the Dr. George and Ann Witkin Center for Clinical Excellence. In addition, major capital improvements will soon be made to the to the Anthony S. Mecca Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and the Stanley N. Turetsky Emergency Care Unit, as well as to two group practices.
  • Philanthropy at NYUCD is thriving. Because of NYUCD's track record of success, the University increased our goal for 2007-2008 from the original target of $5M to a new goal of $6.2M. And thanks to the generosity of our alumni and friends, by the close of the academic year, on August 31, 2008, we had raised nearly $7M, thereby exceeding our goal!
  • An added accomplishment of the past 12 months has been the development of a strategic plan to guide the direction of the College of Dentistry and its College of Nursing over the next five years, which we will share with you in a future publication.

None of this would have been possible without the philanthropic support and faith in the quality and potential of this institution shown by our alumni and friends. As you read this issue of Global Health Nexus, please know that we will do everything in our power to continue to merit your confidence.