Spring 2013

2020 Vision

Strategic planning initiative charts a course for the dental school

By Helene Ragovin

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Roya Zandparsa chairs the dental school's Strategic Planning Steering Committee. Photo: Kelvin Ma

For the past year, Tufts School of Dental Medicine has been looking ahead, developing a strategic plan, known as 2020 Vision!, which will chart a future direction for the school. A 14-member committee of faculty and staff from across the school—basic science, preclinical and clinical—along with a student from the class of 2014, has been gathering information and soliciting feedback from those who work and study at One Kneeland Street, as well as alumni and leaders in oral health care and policy.

The Tufts Dental community has been eager to respond: More than 500 people have participated in the process in some way. From this feedback, the committee will develop a series of short- and long-term recommendations.

Along with the school’s strategic plan, several working groups have been involved in a curriculum revision project, looking at how to integrate the basic and clinical sciences, how to use more technology for teaching and learning and how to get students involved in clinical care earlier in their training, says Nadeem Karimbux, associate dean for academic affairs. Although revision of the curriculum has already started in some areas, the new 2020 Tufts Oral Health Curriculum will be fully implemented in the 2014-15 academic year.

Those leading the strategic-planning process say inclusiveness has been paramount. “Whatever we do, we like to be transparent and to make sure that everybody understands what we are doing,” says Roya Zandparsa, clinical professor of prosthodontics and operative dentistry and chair of the school’s Strategic Planning Steering Committee. “We want to make sure we work as a team, as part of the university, to reach to a higher level.” Tufts Dental Medicine talked with Zandparsa about the strategic plan.

Why is the school developing a strategic plan now?

Roya Zandparsa: Many things are changing at our school—we have a new dean and administration; technology is improving very fast; we have completed the expansion that added five floors to our building. There are new opportunities and challenges, and we want to be able to move to a higher level of prominence as a leader in dental education, not only locally and nationally, but globally. So we have turned our attention to strategic planning. We want to be innovators in developing opportunities for our students to become outstanding leaders in oral health.

What has taken place with the strategic-planning process over the past year?

You always want to establish a baseline, so we started gathering information and reviewing existing documents: the annual surveys of our alumni, the unit assessments, the senior student exit survey, patient satisfaction surveys, the dean’s annual reports. We were already in the process of revising the curriculum, so the curriculum revision committee was in place. We wanted to make sure we were aligned with that committee and that there were no surprises. Then we came up with issues and priorities as well as several distinct areas of focus.

What are those priorities?

They are: Community and social responsibility. How can we ensure that the Tufts Dental community devotes time and effort to address access-to-care issues? Curriculum. How do we provide a comprehensive dental education for future generations? People. How do we engage and support the Tufts Dental community to promote our mission? Research. How can we foster collaborative, interdisciplinary research throughout the school and, by extension, throughout the university?

Capitalizing on the benefits of technology for teaching, learning, research and patient care was initially a priority, but technology was later incorporated into the four other strategic directives and identified as a key enabler for success in all those areas.

What is the timeline for rolling out the strategic plan?

We want to have short-term, mid-term and long-terms goals and be able to implement them little by little. This is a living document—it will require constant revision. We will constantly look to it to see how we’re doing. It’s a process. The name is 2020 Vision!, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to wait until 2020 to begin implementing the recommendations.

We anticipate the overall planning will be completed this spring, and then we will craft a document that reflects the consensus of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee and make that available to all stakeholders.

How did you get people involved? 

Our goal was to engage as many people as possible. We went through a variety of focus groups. We put everything online. We had a poster that was displayed throughout One Kneeland Street to reach people who do not have access to the Internet. We tried every way possible to approach people and try to get them involved, to engage them and let them know their opinion really matters. We wanted to be sure everybody had a chance to be heard. The focus groups were great–some people prefer face-to-face communication. We had two rounds, with eight groups of eight to 10 people each time of students, staff and faculty. We met separately with the Alumni Council to gain the perspective of alumni who are not necessarily members of the faculty. And we also had an anonymous survey for people who were more comfortable providing input that way.

Who did you talk to beyond One Kneeland Street?

Our consultants, Karl Haden of Academy for Academic Leadership in Atlanta and Joshua Mintz of Cavanaugh, Hagan, Pierson & Mintz in Washington, D.C., interviewed leaders in dental and health care and public health to gain perspective on what challenges and opportunities lay ahead for the profession and dental education. We also interviewed members of the Chinatown community, in which our school and clinics are located, and representatives from the Tufts Dental Alumni Association.

The university is also involved in a strategic-planning process. How do these two initiatives intersect?

We talked to Tufts President Anthony Monaco and Provost David Harris. We wanted to make sure we were aligned with their vision, and that our plan and the university plan were in sync. Dean Huw Thomas is part of the university strategic planning group, and he gives us updates on that process. We want to make sure we’re all on the same page and whatever we do is under the Tufts umbrella.

Helene Ragovin, the editor of this magazine, can be reached at helene.ragovin@tufts.edu.



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