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OPBDS: A Successful Merger

In the business world, mergers sometimes don't work out. The opposite has been true for the Department of Oral Pathology, Biology and Diagnostic Sciences (OPBDS), the result of three departments joining together 11 years ago.

Today, OPBDS is a strong, vibrant department with five divisions and more than 40 faculty members.

The department's mission focuses on pathological processes involving and affecting the entire body, with specific emphasis on diagnosis and therapy of diseases of the oral cavity and related structures. From an educational perspective, the goal is to develop life-long learners. "We want our students to be active, continual learners during and after their tenure at NJDS," says Dr. Richard Vogel ('71), chairman of the department.

The five divisions of OPBDS are:

Oral Medicine: Created in 1994 and under the direction of Dr. David Sirois, the division of Oral Medicine focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting the oral cavity, among them, disorders affecting the oral mucosa. "We've become a major referral service for these patients, about 400 per year, and are integrated very deeply with New Jersey Medical School in their treatment, " says Dr. Sirois.

Facial pain is another area that Oral Medicine addresses, covering the gamut of disorders affecting the head, neck, musculoskeletal system, and joints. Comprehensive oral health care services are provided to those medically compromised patients, says Dr. Sirois, that community dentists may not be comfortable treating: liver transplant recipients, people with severe cardiovascular disease, and those who are HIV positive.

All together, the division's clinic saw about 2,300 patients in 1998, including 1,400 medically compromised patients; 400 with oral mucosal disorders; and 350 with facial pain. The division also has two outreach clinics in Atlantic City and Camden.

Oral Medicine's mission is a balance of service, teaching, and research. The division has three post-doctoral programs: general practice residency; certificate program in oral medicine; and a fellowship program in infectious disease. Its faculty has brought in about $2 million in grants­much in the area of chronic oral pain­authored 45 papers, and presented about 30 community programs.

Oral Pathology: This division is home to the oral pathology biopsy service that serves UMDNJ and community dentists throughout New Jersey. It performs about 2,000 biopsies each year.

Dr. Deborah Cleveland is director of the division, whose responsibilities include predoctoral courses in microanatomy, general and systemic pathology, and oral pathology. Division faculty are also very involved in teaching undergraduates and residents in both oral medicine and oral surgery. As a service to New Jersey dentists, professors in this division publish in the NJDA Journal challenging pathological cases, which include self-evaluative "quizzes."

Oral Biology: This division has developed new methodologies for the teaching of such diverse areas as craniofacial pain, periodontal disease, caries, and the growth and development of the oral cavity. By using the combination of lectures, literature review sessions, and small group discussion seminars, students are not only taught contemporary information, but the scientific processes utilized to acquire the information.

Dr. Daniel Fine, director of the Dental Research Center, is also director of this division, which conducts funded research in microbial genetics and host-microbial interactions, as well as clinical trials in periodontal disease.

Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology: Three courses and a clinic are under this division's responsibilities. The 20-session clinic provides small groups of third-year students with the experience of exposing, mounting, labeling, and interpreting periapical, bitewing, occlusal, and panoramic radiographs. Professors within this division are conducting research in the areas of the imaging of swallowing patterns and the radiological practices of private practitioners in regard to public health. A search for a director for this division is underway; currently, Dr. Vogel has those duties.

Diagnostic Sciences: This division, under the direction of Dr. Martin Giniger, provides students with a four-year integrated didactic and clinical curriculum in the diagnostic sciences. A variety of pedagogical methods are utilized, including interactive lectures, problem-based learning seminars, treatment planning seminars, and problem-based clinical instruction. Faculty in this division are extremely active in community service projects, including Special Olympics.


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