To cement a new partnership advancing oral health through community-based research, education, and care, Deans Christian S. Stohler, DMD, DrMedDent, Columbia University College of Dental Medicine (CDM), and Ana N. López Fuentes, DMD, MPH, School of Dental Medicine at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), signed a memorandum of understanding yesterday.
This partnership between two preeminent schools—CDM, one of three Ivy League dental schools, and UPR, the only bilingual dental school accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), will pool academic and research resources to yield tremendous opportunities for students and faculty to develop joint ventures.
The agreement identifies shared interests, such as community needs assessment and continuous care, oral health literacy, research on biomedical services and management technology, smartphone and mobile medical apps and systems, as well as student educational programs. Each project will be designed to strengthen dentists’ attention to specific community needs, both in Puerto Rico and on the mainland U.S.
“As any clinician treating a new population discovers, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to care,” said Dean Stohler. “We hope that our community-based collaborations lead to more informed approaches to addressing oral health needs.”
In addition to research, student opportunities may help address the shortage of Hispanic and Spanish-speaking dentists in the continental U.S., as identified by organizations including the Hispanic Dental Association in a 2013 white paper. Dean López Fuentes sees a unique role this partnership can play in addressing the issue.
“We are the leading educational institution for oral health professionals in Puerto Rico and Latin America,” she said. “By working with communities in Puerto Rico and New York City, we will encourage cultural competence in future clinicians. I believe this can help strengthen care for underserved Hispanic communities throughout the nation.”
The two schools are uniquely suited for this partnership, which continues a longstanding relationship developed when Columbia helped found the UPR dental school 60 years ago, said Dean López Fuentes.
Furthermore, noted Dean Stohler, the two schools’ visions dovetail, taking a holistic and evidence-based approach to patient care, strengthened by their positions within academic medical centers.
“We strongly believe that oral health is essential to overall health, and must be advanced by research, creating an evidence-based approach to care.”
Continuous collaboration between the two deans, both academic leaders committed to expanding the partnership in years to come, will be a key asset. Dr. Stohler has served in his role since 2013 after 10 years as dean of the University of Maryland School of Dentistry. At both schools, he has been a driver for technological and research advances. Dr. López Fuentes has been in her role for two years and on the faculty of UPR for 29. As dean, she has forged numerous public and private partnerships and led advances in the school’s technological resources. She also serves on the Council of Deans Administrative Board to the American Dental Education Association and will become the chair/president of the council. She is the first dean of the UPR system to hold that position.
The two schools also both celebrate landmark anniversaries this year, UPR celebrating 60 years and CDM a century.
About the Schools
Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, among the first university-affiliated dental schools in the United States, was founded in 1916. As part of a world-class medical center, the school trains general dentists and dental specialists in a setting that emphasizes the interconnection between oral health care and overall health for both individuals and communities. The school supports research to advance personalized, evidence-based oral health care and contribute to the professional knowledge base for future leaders in the field. In its commitment to service learning, the school provides dental care to underserved communities of Northern Manhattan and also engages in dental and oral health care capacity-building initiatives abroad. Its faculty has played a leadership role in advancing the inclusion of oral health programs in national health care policy and has developed novel programs to expand oral care locally and in developing countries. For more information, visit dental.columbia.edu.
Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, preclinical, and clinical research; medical and health sciences education; and patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, public health professionals, dentists, and nurses at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. Columbia University Medical Center is home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York City and State and one of the largest faculty medical practices in the Northeast. The campus that Columbia University Medical Center shares with its hospital partner, NewYork-Presbyterian, is now called the Columbia University Irving Medical Center. For more information, visit cumc.columbia.edu or columbiadoctors.org.
The School of Dental Medicine of the University of Puerto Rico is a leading academic institution and a predoctoral and postdoctoral Dental Education Center for Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and Ibero-America. It is a teaching center that promotes the development of intellectually inquisitive students, geared towards self-learning, sensitive to the needs of their patients and competent in his/her profession. It is committed to respond promptly to the internal and external demands in order to become a transforming agent of its environment, with emphasis in the solution of the oral health needs of the Puerto Rican population as an integral component of the health of the individual. The School is responsible for fostering the development of new knowledge and alternative models for the rendering of services.