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A New Horizon at NJDS

by Sheila Smith Noonan

Clinical dentistry offers a world of opportunities for service and professional fulfillment. But beyond that world, there are new horizons for dentists who want to broaden their experiences, such as the fields of public health, politics, insurance, organized dentistry, and research.
That's the message of "New Horizons in Dentistry," a program for senior New Jersey Dental School students offered for the first time this winter. Thought-provoking, candid discussions were served up during five lunch-hour meetings by a virtual "Who's Who" of New Jersey dentistry: State Sen. Jerry Cardinale; Dr. Anthony Volpe ('60), vice president of clinical dental research at the Colgate - Palmolive Co.; UMDNJ Trustee Dr. Frederic C. Sterritt; Dr. Richard W. D'Eustachio, past president of the American Dental Association; and Dr. Robert J. Ott, past chairman of the board of Delta Dental.

A conversation between Dr. Volpe and Dr. Arnold H. Rosenheck, assistant dean of Hospital Affairs and Institutional Development, sparked the program's genesis. They were discussing out-of-the-ordinary opportunities some dentists have had and realized that these people were all from New Jersey. "New Jersey dentists have led the way in expanding the horizons of dentistry," says Dr. Volpe. "We thought, 'Why not share these successes with senior dental students, who may not be familiar with these opportunities?'"

"Dentistry is a very wonderful and noble profession," adds Dr. Rosenheck, "but there are other areas worthy of human endeavor. This program gives students, as they leave NJDS, a broader vision of what's available to them."

And so with the support of Dean Robert Saporito and funding from Colgate-Palmolive, the sun rose on the New Horizons program. "For too long, our pre-doctoral dental students have made the transition from the school environment to the working world without sufficient knowledge about the alternatives available to them," comments Dr. Saporito. "This program, with the generous support of the Colgate-Palmolive Company, brings together dental leaders to better inform our students."

First, subject categories for the program were identified, and then speakers were invited to share their experiences. While there were no hard-and-fast guidelines for the speakers to follow, their messages carried similar themes: How they became involved in areas outside of traditional dentistry and what they've done of value to impact society.

Dr. Sterritt, who spoke to students in February, said the New Horizons program isn't about the speakers' accomplishments, but rather, how young dentists can make a difference beyond the chair. "It's important for students to be exposed at an early stage in their careers to the opportunities that are available to them to positively affect their lives and the lives of their neighbors," he said.

By all accounts, Drs. Cardinale, Volpe, Ott, Sterritt, and D'Eustachio have reached levels of prominence. But what the New Horizons program showed is that they were once not all that different from their audience. "We've all sat in the students' chairs, no better or smarter than they are," Dr. Volpe says. "What has set the speakers apart is that they took time to explore different ventures and excel in them. Let's dispel the notion that you have to know someone to get anywhere. The only real barrier is desire."

Dr. Rosenheck refers to the speakers as "our heroes" and hopes that over time, they can serve as mentors to the New Horizons students. And by the way, he notes, the New Horizons program isn't just a time-filler for NJDS students - "It's part of their education as human beings."

 

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