Global Health Nexus, Summer 2001

Message from the Dean

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

Try to imagine what dentistry was like before most of the dental instruments and techniques we take for granted — like anesthesia, fluoride, high-speed hand pieces, bonding materials, and implants – had been invented. Not so long ago, these were revolutionary new technologies that literally transformed the practice of dentistry. So, before dazzling newer discoveries in the 21st century begin to take center stage, we think it fitting in this issue of Global Health NEXUS to pay tribute to innovations of the last century that shaped the way dentistry is practiced today.

To take us on a journey back in time, we have invited a group of expert commentators to discuss specific developments that transformed clinical practice in the century just ended. You can revisit those historic events in the story entitled “A Century of Innovations that Transformed the Practice of Dentistry.”

Speaking of “transformations,” I am convinced that the next big thing to transform dentistry as powerfully as earlier events did will be the profession’s ability to foster consumer awareness and action regarding oral health. This conviction is at the heart of NYU Dentistry’s “Ask Your Dentist” campaigns, which leverage the power of the media to increase consumer awareness of the importance of early intervention and preventive dental services. For example, through our partnership with WABC-TV in promoting annual, free oral cancer screenings sponsored by the Oral Cancer Consortium, along with newspaper advertisements and TV and radio coverage of the screenings, hundreds of thousands of people annually are being educated to “Ask Their Dentist” for an oral cancer exam, lives are being saved, dentists are making screening for oral cancer a priority in everyday treatment, and the role of the dentist in overall health is being enhanced.

In this effort, we are using new as well as traditional media. For example, in collaboration with Dr. Alan N. Queen, Class of 1985, and the American Cancer Society (ACS), NYU Dentistry recently coproduced an oral cancer exam video to be distributed to professional and lay groups and also viewed as a streaming video on the ACS Web site. As a result, every consumer will be able to determine the components of a good oral examination, including a cancer evaluation, and every dentist will feel obligated to provide it.

NYU Dentistry has also created – and provided free-of-charge to our alumni – an on-line course: Oral Cancer Diagnostics: Practicing for Life™, which uses engaging, interactive technology to help alumni refresh their oral cancer screening techniques.

Building A New Foundation for Teaching, Caring, and Innovating
For a look at transformations yet to be accomplished, I invite you to read “NYU Dentistry to Launch Capital Campaign,” which previews our plan to build the resources needed to meet the challenges and expectations of the 21st century. Called Transformations: Our Building, Our College, Our Profession, this most ambitious capital campaign in our history will enable us to capitalize on technological advances, continue to strengthen our student and faculty body, and globalize our resources, thereby transforming the way dentistry is taught, practiced, and advanced. The goal of this campaign, and all that we do, is to better serve our students, patients, and the larger community. The theme of transformations also resonates in a new partnership between faculty and students that is designed to promote academic excellence, integrity, and leadership. An important symbol of this new partnership is the use of the title “Doctor” by faculty when addressing students in a clinical setting.

An Alumna Who Transforms Smiles and Lives
Don’t miss the “Practicing for Life”™ article in this issue of Global Health NEXUS by Dr. Donna J. Rumberger, Class of 1980. You’ll learn how this distinguished alumna is transforming the lives and employment prospects of poor women through the organization she cofounded, “Smiles for Success.”™ I hope that the examples of transformation in the following pages will ignite your enthusiasm and support for the direction in which NYU Dentistry is moving.