Global Health Nexus, Summer 2002

Message from the Dean

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

NYU Dentistry's commitment to research has never been stronger.

Some 15 years ago, New York University embarked on a systematic effort to reinvent itself as a great research institution. Today, that effort has come to full fruition, with NYU recognized as one of the major research universities in our nation. Like its parent university, the NYU College of Dentistry NYU Dentistry recognizes that our nation’s best dental schools also are known for the quality of research they produce, and in recent years we have been moving with dazzling speed to create an enhanced research environment consistent with both the research commitment and excellence represented by NYU and the singular position NYU Dentistry occupies as the largest academic dental center in the United States.

Thanks to major advances over the past decade in the oral health sciences, information technology, computer-based imaging systems, and the decoding of the human genome, dental research has undergone not only a change in orientation but a true transformation. Both for basic researchers who study the underlying biology of disease, and for clinical investigators who are utilizing the expanded biomedical knowledge base to develop improved approaches to diagnosis and treatment, scientific opportunity has never been greater. And NYU Dentistry’s commitment to research has never been stronger.

This commitment puts NYU Dentistry right in sync with national policy, as stated in the first Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health (May 2000), which asserts that “The nation’s continued investment in [oral health] research is critical for the provision of new knowledge about oral and general health and disease for years to come and needs to be accelerated if further improvements are to be made.”

In this issue of Global Health Nexus, we present Part One of the story of NYU Dentistry’s coming of age as a research institution. We begin with an overview of research objectives and profiles of selected basic research faculty, people who are building an infrastructure and an agenda that position research both as a core activity and an area that improves and supports teaching and clinical care. In a subsequent issue of Global Health Nexus, we will focus on the opening of the Bluestone Center for Clinical Research and on NYU Dentistry’s patient-oriented clinical research program, including its role in facilitating the transfer of new knowledge to industry and, ultimately, to patient care.

Practicing for Lifesm
In the True Sense of the Word

Each of our Practicing for Lifesm columns features a practicing dentist—an alumnus and/or faculty member—who talks about an issue of great personal interest that also resonates in ways that go beyond the person’s clinical experience. In this issue, you’ll read the story of Dr. Clarence M. Calman, ’51, clinical associate professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery, who views Practicing for Lifesm as a process of recycling—himself.

You’ll find another variation on the theme of Practicing for Lifesm in the story entitled “A Harlem State of Mind,” which spotlights dental education’s continuing challenge to increase the percentage of African-American young people who choose careers in dentistry.

At NYU Dentistry, we are addressing this issue through a new initiative that makes NYU Dentistry and local legislators partners in creating incentives for promising African-American young people to consider careers in dentistry long before they actually apply for admission. In contrast to recycling professional expertise in later life, this initiative is about planting the seeds of a professional future early in life. Although the results won’t be known immediately, we feel optimistic that this approach will bear fruit.

All told, this issue of Global Health Nexus testifies to the passion for  discovery, rejuvenation, and innovation that characterizes NYU Dentistry today.