When Ms. Isabel Miranda, chairperson of the UMDNJ Board of
Trustees and Dr. Stuart Cook, president of UMDNJ, asked Dr. Robert
Saporito to be Acting Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
and me to be Acting Dean of NJDS, I have to admit I was honored
but a little nervous. Honored because Dr. Saporito's appointment
meant the leadership of the University recognized the dental
school's recent achievements and had the confidence that our
school would continue its progress toward becoming the top dental
school in the country . . . nervous because I clearly was following
in the footsteps of my mentor, colleague, and friend. And those
footsteps are extremely large.
As alumni, you all should be proud of our school and students.
During this past year, we have had an extremely successful accreditation
site visit, and all this year's senior students seeking postgraduate
programs were placed. Many of you have told me that the level
of professionalism exhibited by our students, the level of enthusiasm
exhibited by our staff, and the level of care provided to our
patients is second to none. As the reputation of the school is
built upon the quality of our graduates and as graduates make
up the NJDAA, the association's future is surely bright.
One example of what you have to be proud of is NJDS's activities
in Special Olympics, Special Smiles, a program whose mission
is 1) to improve the health of individuals with mental retardation
by educating oral health practitioners to the special needs of
this population, and 2) to provide Special Olympians with health
screenings and health prevention education. Each year, during
a weekend in late spring, NJDS students, faculty, and staff,
NJDAA members, and NJDA members join together to offer this dental
health program for the special athletes. This year was exemplary
more than 350 volunteers participated in the two-day event!
As a result of our success, I had the good fortune of being invited
to North Carolina, where the World Summer Special Olympic Games
were held. The sight of 7,000 special athletes and 35,000 volunteers
from all over the world, each with their own story to tell, was
truly a memorable experience. At a meeting of world oral health
leaders, every participant was interested in program innovations
developed in New Jersey! NJDS's leadership in developing different
aspects of Special Smiles is just one example of how the New
Jersey Dental School is recognized both nationally and internationally
for its commitment to educating future practitioners, conducting
research to improve the lives of all citizens of our state (including
individuals who are not able to be advocates for themselves),
and providing care to underserved populations.
Our school's education, research, and service initiatives that
were started by Dr. Saporito have begun to bear fruit. Recent
curriculum changes, our new research initiatives in tissue engineering,
biomaterials, infectious diseases, and head and neck cancer,
and our service programs such as Special Smiles are being asked
about by our colleagues nationwide. I truly believe the paths
selected are the right ones, and I am committed to following
I also firmly believe that the strength of our school is dependent
upon the strength of our alumni. It is your pride in the school,
along with our accomplishments, that will continue to build the
reputation of the New Jersey Dental School. The NJDAA is one
of the school's most valued resources. You've "been there"
and know how we can best strengthen our programs to produce competent,
well-educated doctors. I feel as strongly as Dr. Saporito does
that your opinions are vital to ensuring the directions we take
are the right ones. We have a lot to be proud of, and I personally
pledge to further our success by having open lines of communication
and by looking to our greatest resource you for support
I look forward to hearing from you and our continued partnership.
My door is always open.
Cecile A. Feldman, D.M.D., M.B.A.
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