Schulich Dentistry Vice Dean & Director's Message

It has been a very busy nine months for our teams across Dentistry. But you have all responded positively and collaboratively throughout the constant change we are experiencing. Things at our School are going very well, much better than perhaps any of us would have expected when the pandemic started.  

I see a bright future for Dentistry. We are already on the map in so many ways, and since the pandemic, we have been leading many dentistry program initiatives across the country. We have made positive changes during the past year and we are at the beginning of this journey of change. There is a lot more to come and I hope you all continue to be engaged. Your voices are crucial to our decision-making. 

Since mid-2019, we have hired 14 new faculty members – five of whom are tenure track and 12 new staff members This has been a significant effort and one that was critical to our moving forward in a strong way.  

Your response to our recruitment efforts has been incredible. I have noticed a significant increase in attendance at the research presentations by our faculty hires; in some instances more than 70 full- and part-time faculty and students have attended. I’m very grateful to all of you for your interest and proud of your continued engagement. Because of your interest, we have been able to warmly welcome new faculty to our School.  

As many of you know, thanks to strong alumni donor support, we have completed the funding of the Antonios Mamandras Chair in Graduate Orthodontics. I’m pleased to share with you that we recently held the first meeting for the search committee to fill the Chair. Committee members representing the Dean’s Office, community orthodontists and alumni will play an important role in developing the job posting, as well as with the interviews and selection of the Chair. It is our hope that we will have interviews in the late winter and early spring and will offer a position beginning at the start of the 2021 academic year.  

While the pandemic presented us with many challenges, our education leaders took advantage of the many restrictions to implement new models of teaching and patient care that we had already been considering. The changes to our clinic model have resulted in greater clinical experiences for our students and the achievement of milestones sooner than in past years. We’ve also found more innovative ways to make up for reduced capacity by using mannequins in the clinic. This has given our students the opportunity to practice between patients and continues to enhance their hand skills.  

In the virtual world of didactic teaching, the pandemic has pushed us to become even more engaged with our students. Thanks to the Dentistry e-Learning Task Force we were able to transform a lot of teaching material into a more asynchronous, independent, virtual learning model. There are more opportunities for interactive teaching, more quizzes and more opportunities to interact synchronously. I also think that, because their classroom is now at home, our students have become much more independent in their learning – which can only help them as they progress throughout their careers.  

One of the most significant and exciting projects that we are working on in education is a pilot for experiential learning for fourth-year students. We are hoping to create a distributed education program in the local and/or regional community where our students will be working with community dentists. We’ve received great interest from dentists from as far away as Windsor, and we are excited to get  a pilot  in place for the spring of 2021. I believe that a program such as this one will offer an important opportunity for transition to practice before graduation for our students. Once we have completed the pilot, I will be working with our teams to make this an official part of our curriculum.  

Looking ahead we will also be working on growing our graduate programs. We have very strong faculty leadership in a variety of specialties, giving us a strong foundation to expand our education offerings.  

Our research methodology and efforts are also continuing to evolve. New faculty hires have brought with them research interests, methodology and  strength in population and public health, marginalized communities and oral health, the use of clinical trails for the management of oral health, virtual reality enhanced education and artificial intelligence. These areas complement our basic science research and are allowing us to grow our research enterprise and put ourselves on the map in a new realm.  

To better support our education and research programs, we are making some investments in equipment and looking ahead to ensure there is a plan to sustain our needs as a School. And while it seems like yesterday when we introduced Salud, our first electronic medical record system – it has been three years. So, we will be updating it to include new features, such as remote access.  

In closing, I want to thank all of you for your continued engagement, optimism and hope. I’m proud of what has been accomplished this past year and look forward to working with you in the coming months to achieve even more for our students, patients and the future of our School.  

Dr. Bertha Garcia  
Vice Dean and Director, Dentistry