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President's Message

The present and future mission and vision of the Dental Alumni Association is clear: To continue promoting the welfare of the University, its graduates, and the profession of dentistry; maintain a high standard of continuing education courses; and assist in establishing and maintaining scholarship awards, endowments, and memorial foundations. Our goals also include improving alumni-University relationships through programs designed to foster high levels of academic, ethical, and clinical standards. We know that the foundation of the continuing success of the University, the Association, and the dental profession rests in the student body. Recognition by the University of its most valuable resources-the students-is the basis from which cooperation and productivity emanate.

The officers and executive committee of the Dental Alumni Association are cognizant of the interdependent relationship within which the University and the Association function. Focused and dedicated efforts by the Association's leaders, coupled with the active participation of University administration, will allow us to exceed our expectations; i.e., to foster, maintain, and enhance the reputation of the New Jersey Dental School and its graduates.

The University is redirecting its teaching and rethinking its educational and clinical models to prepare students for, as the Institute of Medicine report predicts, "an environment that will demand increasing efficiency, accountability, and evidence of effectiveness." Critics see "increasing efficiency" as a Trojan horse translating into more procedures at lower reimbursement for the same outcome; "accountability" as increased regulation with parameters of care; and "evidence of effectiveness" as outcome assessments culminating with continued competency-dictated relicensing examinations. The report is a self-fulfilling prophecy derived from a constituency that has seen its members go from physicians to providers, and their patients become consumers faced with drive-through deliveries. If an illness is politically correct, a legislator is your co-therapist; if not, you're lost in voice mail. Why should we embrace that future?

The Pew Commission's report states, "Education should be carried out where it makes the most sense for lessons to be learned, is most convenient for the student, and where it is most effective." Clinical experience must enhance, integrate, support, and provide relevance to the didactic, preclinical, and clinical course material. By exposure to private offices, community health centers, and hospital ambulatory care facilities, students are able to gain perspective on delivering patient care, treatment methods, and professionalism that dental schools cannot always provide.

Therefore, strategic alliances must be formed. Education institutions must forge these alliances to survive. Their interdependence is demonstrable. The initiative must include partners representing all levels and backgrounds: faculty, staff, students, alumni, organized dentistry, and community practitioners. By establishing a common ground, we will arrive at a shared vision to which we can all contribute.

The partnerships we as Alumni establish will be equal, not submissive. Superb, frank communication makes the vision a reality.

We must forge this vision with the extreme and wonderfully sensitive illustration of teamwork exemplified by the Special Olympics. Dr. Peter Strum writes of a race run by Special Olympians who were physically and medically challenged. As the runners started out of the blocks, one young man tripped and fell. As the others became aware of his dilemma, they slowed and returned to his side. They tried to stop his tears and soon helped him to his feet. They then linked arms and walked to the finish line as one, igniting the crowd as no other event could.

As we work together, we must remember that separately we stumble and fall, together we run the race as one. Once the link separates and one sets out to win, the vision evaporates, and the profession of dentistry is forgotten in the quest for individual and institutional accolades. We all will mourn its passing. But I have confidence that our desire to establish alliances that enhance the University's image and ensure the dental profession's continued success will keep the vision alive.

 

Joseph A. Battaglia, D.M.D. ('79),
President, New Jersey Dental School Alumni Association