Welcome to the University of Iowa College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics. My name is Dr. Galen Schneider, and I am the newly appointed interim dean. Over the past 16 months, it has become common to speak and hear about the unprecedented challenges and opportunities that institutions have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our College of Dentistry and University have faced those challenges as well. I am proud of the Iowa spirit that helped to bring us together to navigate these uncharted challenges, to assess and pivot, often by the hour to adjust to an ever-changing landscape put in front of us daily. What has most impressed me throughout the pandemic has been what has remained constant. As a past dental student (DDS ‘91) and faculty member for 22 years, I have long believed that the college and its mission of teaching, patient care, research, and service are vital to the university, the state, and beyond. We take pride in our role and ourselves as stewards of the college and the opportunities we are given to use our time, talents, and resources—to better serve our patients, our students, and our profession. This commitment remained constant and I saw it throughout the past 16 months of the pandemic. I know these attributes will continue to help guide us forward.
I also want to take a moment to thank our past dean, Dr. David Johnsen, for his 25 years of stellar service and dedication. As interim dean, my attention will be focused on using our strategic plan as a compass to maintain our forward momentum, build upon, and strengthen the college in our core areas of patient care, education, research, and service.
Our Commitment to Providing Excellent, Safe, and Personalized Patient Care
Throughout the pandemic, we have maintained a commitment to providing evidence-based, patient-centered dental care. Our faculty, staff, and students worked tirelessly to provide an environment where patients and providers felt comfortable receiving and giving important and needed dental care during the pandemic. Our team conducted research in a collaborative effort with campus experts on the amount of aerosols generated during dental procedures, which we then used to guide the full reopening of our clinics. We shared these results with other dental colleges nationally as a beacon by which they too might be able to reenter their clinics for patient care delivery and dental student education. With these effective COVID-19 mitigation measures, our clinics are now seeing approximately the same number of patients as we were seeing prior to the pandemic; and we have been for some time.
Our Commitment to Educating the Next Generation of Dentists
Over the course of the pandemic, our faculty and staff were able to come together and maintain their teaching responsibilities, sometimes while working from home. I am amazed at the ability of all the faculty, staff, and students who pivoted their educational deliveries, materials, and the student’s abilities to adapt to these changes. Early on, guidelines would often change daily and would result in necessary modifications to the curriculum and the delivery of that material on an incredibly short timeline. We all had to learn new technologies and at the same time not diminish the quality we expect of ourselves. Our faculty, staff, and students stepped up and handled these difficult situations in a professional manner and did not compromise the levels of competency we expect of our graduating dental students to become dentists. As a result, we were able provide for all of the educational needs for our students, and this work made a huge difference. Subsequently, we were able to graduate our classes of 2020 and 2021 on time, thus providing proven and competent dentists to the state of Iowa’s oral health workforce under the duress of the pandemic. I am proud of all our team in these efforts!
This past fall when many prospective dental students were opting out or deferring to attend dental school, we maintained our high application/acceptance rate as previous admissions cycles. For these students, both our innovative curriculum, including clinical and educational experiences in as many ADA-recognized specialties as any dental school in the country, our program’s early and extensive clinical opportunities for students, our world-renowned faculty, as well as our student research program were major draws. I feel very fortunate that we were able to continue providing these kinds of opportunities for our current and new dental students during these unprecedented times.
As we start another academic year, we will begin to refocus our on our strengths and future for our educational programs. Our clerkship educational model; along with our FAMD comprehensive care clinic are the pillars and strength of our curriculum patient care experiences for our students. Opportunities provided by our outstanding collegiate specialty driven departments continues to create an outstanding learning environment for our dental students. Thinking forward, we are poised to continue to strengthen and enhance our digital technology initiatives. We are excited to explore ways to expand and grow our digital curriculum and resources to prepare our students for future dental practice.
Our Commitment to Research and Innovation
As a college of the University of Iowa, an R1/Tier One research university, we are fortunate to have outstanding opportunities for collaborative research efforts. These teams explore many areas including biostatistics and computational biology; bioengineering, tissue engineering, stem cells, biomaterials and materials research; clinical and big data research; craniofacial, oral biology, genetics & dental development; immunology, inflammation, microbiology, caries and microbiome research; public health, epidemiology and behavioral sciences research; oral health policy research; clinical and translational science, and more. This research and the findings generated help with the latest patient care treatments. But just as important, these findings drive our teaching and our educational process. What helps make our College of Dentistry unique is that we are always striving to ask how/why and to use those answers to guide our patient care, teaching, and service. I am proud and amazed at what has been accomplished not only by our faculty and staff with their research; but also how our students and residents continue to make new discoveries with their research conducted with their mentors in our nationally known student research program. I believe that someday these discoveries will translationally apply to our patient care for Iowa residents and beyond.
An example of this success can be seen from our faculty who made great strides in research funding over the past 16 months. The college achieved a new milestone in research success for 2020 by being ranked in the top 10 (#2 in the Big 10) for National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) funding with over $6.4 million in National Institutes of Health (NIH)/NIDCR awarded grants and research funds to continue our research efforts described above. As a college, we look forward to seeing these successes amplified with the submission of our Oral Cancer P50 NIH/NCI SPORE grant in collaboration with other university colleges such as Medicine and Pharmacy. We are poised to continue to grow our enterprise to be a global leader in dental and craniofacial research.
Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
The College of Dentistry continues to partner with and work in collaboration with the university and our colleagues in the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity, and University Human Resources to foster an equitable and inclusive environment for everyone in the College of Dentistry. We will continue to support the University’s mission and message that ideas and perspectives should be able to be freely expressed and discussed. Continuing to improve the campus climate requires a sustained community-wide effort, which is critical to the future success of the College of Dentistry and to the success of our students being health care providers in their diverse communities.
As our college enters a new period of transition to a new permanent dean, I want you to know that we will continue to work hard to maintain our forward momentum for the good of our college, the university, our state, and our profession. As interim dean, it is my goal to steward our time, talents, and resources to fulfill this vision.
Galen B Schneider, DDS, PhD, FACP
Executive Associate Dean
Associate Dean for Faculty
Professor, Department of Prosthodontics
Diplomate, American Board of Prosthodontics
Fellow, American College of Prosthodontists
University of Iowa College of Dentistry & Dental Clinics