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One Good Presidency Deserves Another:

by Sheila Smith Noonan

In a popular Generation X game, players try to make the connection between actor Kevin Bacon and other Hollywood stars and movies. Make that game's setting New Jersey dentistry, and Dr. Peter DeSciscio ('85) could take the lead role.

"Homegrown in New Jersey and never left," as Dr. DeSciscio describes himself, he has made his mark in many state dentistry organizations, beginning with student leadership at New Jersey Dental School and culminating with his current presidency of the New Jersey Academy of General Dentistry (AGD). In June, a few weeks after his AGD term ends, Dr. DeSciscio begins a two-year term as president of the Alumni Association of New Jersey Dental School.

Dr. DeSciscio entered dental school with the encouragement of his parents, Joseph and Gracemary. His mother's uncle was a dentist, and his father simply wanted him to be his own boss. As a dental student, his primary goal was to get through school. But when asked to run for Student Government Association president in his sophomore year, his path took an unanticipated turn. He served two years as SGA president, during which time he helped facilitate student meetings with the then-dean of clinical affairs, Dr. Robert Saporito. A letter of thanks Dr. DeSciscio received from former Dean Frank Lapeyrolerie remains fresh in his memory. "Together, we were able to resolve small problems before they became big ones," Dr. DeSciscio recalls. In addition to his involvement with SGA, he was instrumental in creating a student chapter of the Fauchard Dental Society under the guidance of Dr. Carmine LoMonaco.

Following graduation from NJDS, Dr. DeSciscio completed a one-year General Practice Residency at Jersey City Medical Center and then worked as an associate for a few alumni of the dental school. In 1987, he began teaching part time at NJDS, first in the Restorative Department and then in the Department of Prosthodontics, where he is on leave of absence from his appointment as a clinical assistant professor. While actively teaching at NJDS, Dr. DeSciscio was appointed by Dr. William Cinotti as dental director of the Plainfield Health Center, now a Community Oriented Dental Education (CODE) site.

Also in 1987, Dr. DeSciscio purchased an existing practice in Perth Amboy, N.J. Four years later he moved his practice to another office he purchased, again in Perth Amboy, merging the two. Today, his office, housed in a historic building dating from the 1850s, blends the antique trimmings of that era with state-of-the-art dental equipment.
Dr. DeSciscio's involvement with AGD began as a practical matter. He liked the organization's focus on continuing education and its ability to track the credits he earned. In 1991, with close to the 500 hours needed for an AGD Fellowship, Dr. DeSciscio traveled to Orlando, Fla., to take the exam. While there, he was invited to observe a House of Delegates meeting and to join other New Jersey AGD members in their suite. "I soon realized that these people were truly interested in organized dentistry and in continued education as a lifelong experience," he says.

Over the years, Dr. DeSciscio, who received his AGD Fellowship in 1992, took on leadership positions in the New Jersey AGD, such as chair of the continuing education committee and treasurer. When he served as the continuing education chairman, the NJ AGD received the 1995 Continuing Education Award of Excellence from the national AGD. As Dr. DeSciscio's term as president draws to a close, he speaks enthusiastically about the academy and what it offers to dentists and the public. "Our cornerstone remains quality continuing education courses, which are offered to all members and students," he says. "A Mastership track - requiring 600 hours of courses, 400 of which must be participation - provides an ongoing way for dentists to take these courses in succession over several years."

At the AGD's national meetings, he has worked the Smile Line phones. "The public can call an 800 telephone number and ask questions of dentists. It's a great public service," he says. "People ask all kinds of questions, from what type of toothbrush is best to whether they are candidates for implants. They want to maintain their natural teeth for as many years as possible."

Dr. DeSciscio's affiliations with AGD, NJDS, and the New Jersey Dental Association have made him visible within the state dental circle and also provided opportunities for him to act as an unofficial liaison between different groups. Both characteristics are strengths that he will use as president of the Dental Alumni Association. "From one venue or another, people know who I am, and I'll call on whatever resources I can to continue building a strong Alumni Association," Dr. DeSciscio says. "Dr. Battaglia moved the association in a new, positive direction, and my plan is to continue to guide it along the same path."

That guidance may include encouraging more alumni to take continuing education courses, fostering participation by faculty alumni in alumni/school-sponsored events, building bridges between the generations of alumni, and an ongoing interest in the school's current students. "We all need each other to move the Alumni Association to the next level," says Dr. DeSciscio, who in addition to his private practice is director of the Dental General Practice Residency program at JFK Medical Center in Edison, N.J. "There are many new avenues to explore."

 

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