Update from Dean Garcia -- August 20, 2020

Aug. 20, 2020


It has been five months since our community and nation shutdown in response to the pandemic. In this time period, faculty immediately responded with their ingenuity and creativity to ensure continuity of the curriculum in the predoctoral education program, as well as in the GPR, Orthodontics, and Pediatric Dentistry advanced education programs. UNLV Dental Medicine DMD and DDS Classes of 2020 graduated – a major feat in of itself!

Additional kudos to those who:

  • ensured emergency dental services remained available after the pandemic began.
  • transitioned didactic courses into remote instruction for the spring 2020 semester.
  • provided instruction and changed working hours to complete clinical simulation lab courses for the spring and summer 2020 semesters.
  • adapted to flexible curriculum scheduling.
  • adapted and carefully developed curriculum changes.
  • served on the Curriculum Committee to provide timely reviews of multiple changes, and approve submitted curriculum changes.
  • showed professionalism through their work as we resumed patient care at approximately 50% capacity in the clinics.
  • completed the work for our Stage 4 reopening for the fall semester beginning August 31, 2020, which includes face-to-face instruction.

Our successes were not accomplished in isolation, and demonstrate the commitment and pride of many people who came together and pushed forward in support of our students and residents, ultimately protecting the integrity of the degrees.   

Faculty and staff involved throughout the school, including members of the COVID-19 Response Team, demonstrated (and continue to do so) decision-making based on the best evidence available, and performed due diligence while managing respectful discourse when tensions arose.  Our community should be proud and confident knowing that when decisions had to be made in the middle of uncertainty and unknown consequences, safety prevailed as a core theme.  Official reporting to UNLV and NSHE is on-going and, after submitting a comprehensive document, the Commission on Dental Accreditation approved all the changes made in support of the continuity of our curriculum.

Although you may have heard this before, allow me to repeat my appreciation to staff and faculty who contributed when requested and willingly accepted reassignments wherever needed.  We exist as an outpatient healthcare facility that is integral and essential to educating the next generation of dentists for Nevada and beyond. 

While the anxiety is often palpable, it is important to remember each person serves a key role in our collective ability to meet the essential “job” responsibilities, meeting obligations as professionals in an academic dental institution.  To that end, the predoctoral curriculum and advanced education programs continue at a steady pace in support of student learning.  We need to stay focused on modeling professional behavior to take care of our patients and each other. 

I suspect the majority of you look forward to this semester break, more so than ever before. The challenges over the months have been exhausting and stressful. The opportunity to rest, reset, and refresh is needed and encouraged.

The current “break” is significant since original plans were to forgo a break, if needed, to keep our students on track.  With all the hard work over the past five months, it was decided to honor a decompressed schedule now to allow time for those who have shown fortitude and commitment on behalf of our school.  This is one piece-of-normal that I hope you use to recharge.

I also acknowledge those staff and faculty who will be on campus during the break handling the last-minute details before the fall semester begins. Your work is noticed and appreciated.

If you are taking time off, remember to protect yourself against this virus because doing so protects everyone on campus when you return. So far, our information about confirmed COVID-19 cases among dental school personnel shows that those occurrences were due to personal interactions off campus. Your continued attention to following our protocols will help maintain as safe a learning and work environment as possible.

As employees of UNLV School of Dental Medicine, we are grateful for the support we receive from the state and university, especially the generous accommodations afforded many of our colleagues experiencing difficult times over the past five months.  We are excited with a sense of renewed professional commitment to our students and residents, and to each other, as we welcome the return of the Classes of 2021, 2022, 2023, and the new Class of 2024!

I wish you a safe and healthy respite.