Global Health Nexus, Fall 2000

Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health Previewed at NYU Dentistry Graduation

“Good oral health and general health are inseparable.” With these words of his keynote address, given May 24 at NYU Dentistry’s Graduation Ceremony at The Theater at Madison Square Garden, U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D., offered a preview of one of the two dominant messages in the first-ever Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health. The report, commissioned by last year’s graduation speaker, Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala, also identifies “a silent epidemic” of dental and oral diseases.

“We recognize that oral health is an essential and integral component of overall health throughout the life span,” said Surgeon General Satcher. “We also recognize profound disparities that affect those without the knowledge or resources to achieve good oral care. Those who suffer the worst oral health include poor Americans, especially children and the elderly. Members of racial and ethnic groups also experience a disproportionate level of oral health problems. And those with disabilities and complex health conditions are at greater risk for oral diseases that, in turn, further complicate their health.” An audience of more than 400 graduates, representing NYU’s D.D.S., Advanced Education, and dental hygiene programs, plus more than 3,000 family members, faculty, and alumni, heard the Surgeon General stress these two key messages a day in advance of the formal release of the report.

Calling Surgeon General Satcher a “visionary advocate for the health of the public,” Dean Alfano applauded Dr. Satcher’s aggressive agenda, adding that the Surgeon General’s emphasis on oral cancer was particularly noteworthy. “The emphasis on the oral cancer disparity suffered by African American men will bring the much-needed attention of all Americans to this little known deadly disease.”