Spring 2019

A Changing World for the Dental Profession

Greetings! This is the last column I’m writing as dean of Tufts School of Dental Medicine. As many of you know by now, my term as dean will end on June 30. The past eight years have been the most rewarding of my academic career and it has been a privilege and honor to work with such an outstanding group of faculty, staff, students, and alumni.

I believe we are at a critical juncture in dental medicine. Our profession is facing many changes and challenges. Our nation continues a long discussion about health-care cost and access, the integration of oral health into general medical care, interprofessional education, the composition of the oral-health workforce, and how best to meet our population’s oral health-care needs. Rural populations, patients with special or complex needs, children, the elderly, and low-income patients are less likely to seek dental treatment, or have easy access to it.

At the same time, the dental field has become more diverse than ever, with more women, people of color, and individuals from diverse economic backgrounds attending dental school. Technological innovations, such as three-dimensional scanning and printing, computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing, and dental implants, have led to significant advances in care. Consequently, many restorative procedures that once took days or weeks to complete are now accomplished in a single visit.

All the above examples have a direct impact on dental education and the experiences we can afford our students. At Tufts School of Dental Medicine, we are most fortunate that our vibrant and dedicated community of faculty and staff work tirelessly to train our students to meet these changes and challenges, and provide our students with the tools to excel in their careers. Our educational programs combine cutting-edge science, state-of-the-art technology, integrated patient care, lifelong learning, and civic service in a world-class environment. Our research programs have led to breakthroughs in dental materials, treatment of autoimmune diseases, and tissue regeneration, among many other accomplishments. We have incorporated the latest pedagogical methods into our teaching programs and have adapted to the preferred learning methods of our current generation of students. Our clinical space provides comprehensive care for our patients in a compassionate environment. Our new lobby at One Kneeland Street will reflect the innovative look and feel of the school sitting above it, and will set a tone of openness and warmth for everyone who passes through.

And our work extends both locally and globally. We have created a dental home in Chinatown to meet the needs of pediatric patients who are underserved, and we provide much-needed care to patients with disabilities at Tufts Dental Facilities located throughout Massachusetts. We send our students around the globe on a variety of missions, from providing basic dental services to collaborating on research at dental schools in Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

The search for a new dean is well underway, and I am confident that the new leadership will continue to enhance the legacy and traditions of this outstanding institution. Moreover, as I look to our students and our young alumni, many of whom return to teach in our classrooms and our clinics, I feel certain that the future for the School of Dental Medicine is in excellent hands.

My sincere appreciation for your support, collegiality, and friendship.

As always, I welcome your comments by phone (617-636-6636) or by email, huw.thomas@tufts.edu.

Huw F. Thomas, B.D.S., M.S., Ph.D.
Dean and Professor of Pediatric Dentistry

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