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UW School of Dentistry receives $1.15 million grant

The UW School of Dentistry will soon be able to further improve its dental program thanks to a $1.15 million monetary gift from Delta Dental/Washington Dental Service (DD/WDS). The money will be used to better the school’s clinical education and curriculum.

The UW School of Dentistry is already a top-ranking school, but Joel Berg, dean of the UW School of Dentistry, said that in order to maintain such high standing, the school must continue to develop and improve its system.

“The [UW] School of Dentistry has always been one of the top schools in the world. … What I want to continue to do is to assume a leadership position, and in order to do that we’re going to have to change how we do things,” Berg said.

The school is looking to revamp its curriculum through hiring additional faculty and creating a curriculum renovation task force and a clinical systems task force. The school is also adding new classes to stay up-to-date on accreditation standards that emphasize interprofessional education and evidence-based dentistry.

Jean Garber, assistant dean for Finance and Administration at the school, said these changes are necessary in order for the school to remain competitive on a national and global scale.

“All of health care is changing, globally and nationally, and we need to change with it,” Garber said.

Garber also said many of these changes are the result of new leadership within the school.

“We have a new dean and he has a new vision. … [His] mission is training the dentists of the future, so we are improving our processes,” Garber said. “Our whole curriculum is being revamped.” 

The school has worked with DD/WDS in the past, having received more than $10 million in contributions over the past two decades. In 2007 the non-profit organization donated a $5 million gift that allowed the school to open the UW Center for Pediatric Dentistry.

According to Jim Dwyer, president and chief executive officer of DD/WDS, these efforts to renew the dental program at the UW are necessary. 

“I don’t think that anyone has looked at the school from top to bottom for years in terms of ‘how do we prepare for the future’ … so that we are turning out quality dentists who will meet the needs of the future,” Dwyer said. “So it was refreshing to us when [the dean] leaked that vision to us, and we found it sufficiently compelling that we wanted to help him out.”

Dwyer also said he feels the new dean is capable of improving the system, despite challenges.

“I think the challenge that the dean will have is people naturally are reluctant to change, particularly in a university setting,” Dwyer said, “but I think that the dean has a great deal of support from the faculty, and if anyone can do it he can do it.”

The school has already begun the process of planning a new curriculum for the students, and hopes to begin phasing it in approximately a year from now. Students currently enrolled will continue to be taught using the existing curriculum, while newly-enrolled students will likely be the first to experience these changes.

“I’m seeing a new excitement around here,” Berg said. “We’re all looking ahead and saying, ‘We got to make big changes, let’s work together … to make the students the best future dentists they can be.’”

Reach reporter Ola Wietecha at news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @OWietecha

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