Global Health Nexus, Spring 2000

Message from the Dean

Michael C. Alfano, DMD, PhD
New York University College of Dentistry

The cover story of this issue of Global Health NEXUS celebrates 10 women of talent, drive, and achievement who are making an impact on global health. We have chosen to highlight the careers of these women for a number of reasons. First, they are role models and deserving of recognition. In addition, each of the women profiled represents a career orientation in cross-cultural health that is one of the key missions of the NYU College of Dentistry and of Global Health NEXUS, namely, to reach out across borders in order to impact health globally.

Many of these women are dentists, though not all are. Yet the fact that over the past 25 years the female-to-male ratio of dental students has nearly balanced out is itself newsworthy. From 1926, when the first female student, Frieda N. Doctors, entered NYU Dentistry, until the early 1970s, women comprised less than 1.5 percent of dental students in the United States. But as the women's movement took root and began to change the view of society about women, the number of first-year, female dental students began rapidly to climb. From a total of 231 women enrolled in dental schools in 1970, the number shot up to 1,861 by 1975. Less than a decade later it had nearly doubled, and by 1985 women represented fully 25 percent of all U.S. dental students. Today, the figure is above 40 percent at many dental schools, including NYU Dentistry, where women comprise nearly 48 percent of the student body. What an amazing trajectory!

Until the early 1970s, women comprised less than 1.5 percent of dental students in the United States.

Equally as important as the elimination of gender barriers -- and a public becoming accustomed to the presence of women in all spheres of activity -- has been the impact that the global emergence of women has had on society's understanding of women's health-care issues as well as those of minority groups. Certainly a commitment to promote inclusion and diversity in health research and care resonates strongly in the lives of the women spotlighted in this issue of Global Health NEXUS. Whether working on a Native American reservation, in private practice, in rural areas of the Dominican Republic, in laboratories, in inner-city neighborhoods, in classrooms, or in government, they are all helping to collapse barriers to health-care access just as their predecessors broke down institutional barriers to women's full participation in society.

Setting Our Course

A second story in this issue focuses on the College's new strategic plan. I am delighted to report that in addition to producing a plan that I believe will enable NYU Dentistry to become the place to be among U.S. dental schools, the planning process also fostered a cohesiveness at the College that will help to ensure the success of our plan. I thank especially our colleagues on the Strategic Planning Coordinating Committee, who ably discharged the task assigned to them, and the committee chairman, Associate Dean Frederick G. More, who was a natural choice to lead this important process. Fred's experience in dental education nationally, as well as the insights he has gained as a consultant to the Commission on Dental Education, made him particularly well suited to this task.

One very important part of our strategy is already in place. That is the integration of the advanced standing and the traditional D.D.S. programs. Based on our belief that separate is inherently unequal, we now have one, unified D.D.S. program. My congratulations and thanks go to Dr. Francis V. Panno and his committee for making the merger possible.

Equally notable is the appointment of new senior faculty and administrators, who will help us create a more dynamic teaching and research environment. Two major new hires, Dr. Richard I. Vogel and Dr. Ralph V. Katz, have already arrived, and you will find them profiled in the article entitled "Recruiting the Best." I look forward to announcing additional major appointments in the coming months.

Another story in this issue describes a variation on a national model that NYU Dentistry has pioneered - that of the urban academic dental center as a force for social action. For many years, NYU Dentistry's pediatric dentistry program has been recognized as a leader in delivering services to meet the oral health needs of all of New York's children. Now, with the launch of an impressive new dental facility on wheels, "Smiling Faces, Going Places," the tradition of extending the walls of our pediatric dentistry clinic into the underserved community continues.

Inventive Alumnus

Don't miss the "Practicing for LifeTM" article in this issue of Global Health NEXUS by Dr. Steven Mondre. In this section, we invite alumni of NYU Dentistry to expound on topics of great personal interest. When I first met Dr. Mondre, I was impressed both by his passion to promote smoking cessation among dental patients and by his inventiveness in patenting and testing a new dental floss containing nicotine! All of us in the NYU community wish him well in his efforts to obtain FDA approval for this clever approach to promoting smoking cessation.

These are exciting times at NYU Dentistry. From the latest Ask Your Dentist campaign to the participation of U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher as the keynote speaker at our year 2000 graduation ceremony, each day brings signs of a new sense of vitality and optimism on campus.

I hope you will share these feelings as you read this issue of Global Health NEXUS.