Editing staff and publisher

 

 

The Last Word: A Message from the Dean, Volume 5

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 them through.

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 and ideas.

I look forward to hearing from you and our continued partnership. My door is always open.

Warmest regards,

Cecile A. Feldman, D.M.D., M.B.A.
Acting Dean

 

(Go back to the top)