Update from Dean Garcia -- July 15, 2020

Jul. 15, 2020


The dean’s administration work group met virtually with Dr. Eugene L. Anderson on July 14, 2020.  Dr. Anderson currently serves as vice president for External Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.  In this role, Dr. Anderson provides strategic leadership and direction, and is primarily responsible for supporting the APLU Council of 1890 Universities, and the Commission on Access, Diversity, and Excellence.  I reconnected with my long-time friend and colleague and shared multiple discussions about resetting an important element of UNLV Dental Medicine—a vision that includes a focus on diversity and inclusion.  He provided a framework for discussion based on the demographics of Nevada and our region.  He helped guide initial thoughts about how early achievements can have meaningful impact, and support the mission.  The dean’s administration work group began and will continue the work building strategic priorities moving forward.

The academic health sciences deans, Drs. Amar, Brown, Gerstenberger, Kahn, and I, met later that same day (the group meets regularly) and support meeting with Dr. Anderson to discuss the impact of social and health equity on the evolving UNLV academic health center (AHC).  The group of AHC deans already developed initial drafts of a mission, vision, and strategic plan with the help of Dr. Marcia Ditmyer over the past three years.  Recently, President Meana and Provost Heavey dedicated funds to further develop the AHC into a reality for Nevada.

Discussion and processes from the two meetings may appear to be a slow path, but, arguably, careful deliberations are intended to systematically build something of lasting value.  Sometimes the business of an academic dental institution, more so of an AHC, is not easily visible, but know processes will evolve that engage more people to get involved.  The work among large groups of individuals begins with the premise of mutual respect for one another and appreciation for each person’s perspective in order to be effective.

While this has been “in the works and behind the scenes,” I met recently with Charles Buchanan, rising DS4, to discuss issues from a student’s perspective.  He offered insightful comments and feedback.  He indicated a strong desire from many of our students who are committed to contribute to build on a more visible tenet of diversity, equity, and inclusion.  I encourage students to formalize an interprofessional health sciences student group.  We spoke of creating opportunities for listening sessions, or a panel discussion that includes accomplished colleagues from diverse backgrounds.  Consider a panel composed of friends and colleagues such as an accomplished dentist who came from a migrant farmworker family, a transgender dental specialist, or an outstanding mentor like Dr. Leo Rouse who just received the ADA Distinguished Service Award and is recognized as the “leader of leaders”. https://www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2020-archive/june/leo-rouse-recipient-of-ada-distinguished-service-award  Their perspectives could provide context to the times we live in now.

Every effort is important, but the need to develop, formalize, and implement initiatives cannot be based on one person’s efforts in order to accomplish sustainable outcomes.  As Dr. Anderson shared, UNLV is recognized nationally. Las Vegas is known internationally.  So consider how we capitalize and leverage our strengths into outcomes that help us meet our mission, and ultimately help us provide for the oral healthcare of Nevadans of all backgrounds. As the efforts move forward, I seek your support for what can be a collective vision.