For decades, the University of Washington School of Dentistry has been recognized as one of the nation’s leading centers of dental education, oral health research, and patient care. In fact, it is recognized as one of the best in the world.
I believe that our educational mission is one of the most advanced and comprehensive in the nation. We train a highly qualified, diverse student body in a challenging learning environment informed by cutting-edge scholarship, with a faculty of unsurpassed quality and reputation. A rising focus on interprofessional education means that our students gain a better appreciation of how oral health relates to overall health. We have become the new home for the highly respected Shoreline Community College dental hygiene program. Their students work closely with ours in our clinics, better preparing everyone for real-world dental practice.
We are entering an era where dentists have the science, technology, and skills to manage their patients’ oral health more effectively than ever before. Our DDS program is moving forward in this innovative frontier with basic science taught in an interprofessional setting that includes medical students. Students who have an interest in rural practice can enter the Regional Initiatives in Dental Education (RIDE) program, which takes them to underserved communities for much of their clinical training. Those who are interested in an academic career or research track can apply for a dual-degree (DDS/PhD) track. Our post-doctoral specialty programs include most dental subspecialties and offer certification as well as master’s degrees.
Outstanding patient care is both a mission and point of excellence at the School of Dentistry. As one of Washington’s biggest Medicaid dental providers, we are an integral part of the state’s public health safety net. All fourth-year students provide care for underserved/rural populations. Our school is also where private medical and dental health care providers refer their most medically complex patients with oral health care needs. In these cases, the patients’ oral health directly and adversely affects their general health. These patients include those who are pre-and post-transplant, those undergoing radiation or chemotherapy, developmentally disabled children and adults, those living with advanced HIV-related disease, people with advanced and/or poorly controlled diabetes, patients with dementia, and persons living with certain genetic anomalies. Our clinics are often the only referral destinations in the state for these patients and receive referrals from dentists and physicians throughout Washington. In addition, our Dental Education in the Care of Persons with Disabilities (DECOD) clinic provides care for persons with a broad range of developmental and acquired disabilities, and also trains our students in this demanding specialty.
The School of Dentistry also has a robust research mission. Through the years, we have enjoyed an enviable national and international reputation as a center of dental research excellence. The school’s research programs contribute to understanding biological, behavioral, social, biomedical, genetic, and clinical aspects of dental and orofacial health. Three faculty members have received the American Dental Association’s Norton M. Ross Award for Excellence in Clinical Research, the ADA’s highest such honor. In addition, our former dean, Dr. Martha Somerman, received the ADA’s Gold Medal Award for research, the first woman to do so.
We value and promote diversity in our students, staff, faculty, and patients. We seek to foster an environment of mutual respect with objectivity, imaginative inquiry through lifelong learning, and the free exchange of ideas. Personal development, professionalism, and the highest ethical standards are foundational elements of our missions. Our greater goal is to improve the health and well-being of all our citizens and to reflect the best values of our University, the Pacific Northwest, and the nation.
I am honored and proud to be Dean of the School of Dentistry, even more so during the unprecedented public health challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. When Seattle became the initial epicenter of the breakout in the United States, our clinicians met the challenge squarely, especially at our oral surgery satellite clinic at Harborview Medical Center and at our Dental Urgent Care Clinic. They not only served with distinction while placing themselves at risk but also shared their hard-won knowledge of new clinical protocols with the rest of the dental community through webinars and research papers. We lead the way in including dental health care workers in the effort to vaccinate the population.
It is an exciting time for us, and I see great opportunities in all aspects of our mission. We are honored to serve our students, our patients, our dental community, and our state, and I hope that you share our pride in our values and accomplishments.