No Simple Issue
Greetings! I have often commented in this column on the tremendous sense of family that characterizes the Tufts School of Dental Medicine community. This was nowhere more apparent than during the events surrounding the terrorist attacks at the Boston Marathon, which have reminded us all of the importance of our friends and family in very challenging times. I have been so moved and impressed with the way our school, university and the people of this great city have responded. Our thoughts and prayers remain with all those affected by this tragedy.
That sense of caring about the communities in which we live is highlighted in our lead story in this issue, which explores many of the challenges facing our profession. Access to oral health care, especially in rural areas, presents a significant national problem. The situation in Maine illustrates this issue—a shortage of dentists, low reimbursement policies and a patient population that is largely unaware of the benefits of sound oral hygiene to their oral and, indeed, general health until a problem arises. We are all grateful to dentists like Norma Desjardins who choose to practice in underserved areas. Through our externship programs we seek to educate and encourage our graduates to consider these underserved regions as possible sites for their future careers. But if that is all we do, we will allow others to determine the future of oral health-care delivery, a situation that is unfortunately playing out in many areas of the country.
The theme of increasing access to care, especially among low-income populations, is continued in our story about another alumnus, Corie Rowe, who is opening an office on Chicago’s South Side. This article illustrates the multifaceted issues that we deal with in our understanding of access issues. Simply providing access to care does not ensure that individuals will take advantage of it. Education in sound oral health-care practices is essential if we are to make progress in reducing disease.
Our current students are featured prominently in this issue of the magazine and help us appreciate the outstanding group of young women and men in our dental school classes. For the second year in a row, our students have been recognized as contributing the largest number of abstracts to the annual meeting of the International Association of Dental Research, held recently in Seattle.
By the time many of you read this, the class of 2013 will have graduated. Let me take this opportunity to congratulate the graduates on their many achievements and wish them the very best as they embark on the next phase of their careers.
Huw F. Thomas, B.D.S., M.S., Ph.D.
Dean and Professor of Pediatric Dentistry