Update from the Dean - May 22, 2020

May. 21, 2020

Patience, perseverance, and resilience are traits that can be advantageous characteristics in managing the impact of events we cannot control, most especially experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic impact on Nevada. People are defined in times of crisis, and while this one is no different than responses during Hurricane Katrina, it is made even more difficult since recovery is ill-defined, and neither quick nor easy.

Many faculty and staff have worked daily and continue their commitment to meet the mission of our school in support of the predoctoral education program, the General Practice Residency, Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics residencies. The disruptive impact on course work, teaching and learning, and the delivery of patient care will be referenced and re-examined in the coming months as we debrief and learn how to make us stronger and better. We can take pride in the remarkable outcomes in support of the Class of 2020, while balancing essential issues to ensure continuity of curriculum for all dental students and residents. 

Some of the accomplishments that occurred over the two months from mid-March to mid-May included:

  • Administration and faculty shifting all didactic courses from in-person instruction to remote instruction – both asynchronous and real-time – for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester.
  • Designed and refined protocol to ensure appropriate social distancing for DS4 students to complete their competency assessments, among the many components required for curriculum completion prior to graduation.
  • Established a means for DS4 students to complete their chart audits and confirm continuity of clinical patient care through approved student-to-student transfers.
  • Implemented strict protocols to ensure appropriate social distancing for DS1 and DS2 students to complete their Clinical Simulation Lab courses for spring semester 2020.
  • Developed an innovative summer semester beginning May 11, 2020, and allowed for remote didactic instruction during the first seven weeks while faculty continued to complete spring semester Clinical Simulation Lab courses. During the remainder of the summer semester, dental students will complete clinic and Clinical Simulation Lab curriculum components.
  • Advanced education programs – GPR, Pediatric Dentistry, Orthodontics – provided emergency patient care throughout. Advanced education or resident clinics reopen May 18, 2020 for urgent care patient services. Program directors are developing protocol to reopen patient clinical services along with faculty developing the protocol for the predoctoral dental student clinics with an initial target date of June 1, 2020.
  • Devised a training program for all faculty, students, residents, and staff as a refresher practicum about the proper donning and doffing of PPE. Elevated from standard PPE to include face shields, surgical head coverings, and shoe coverings, which were added for use in aerosol generating procedures.
  • Implemented engineering controls such as glass partitions and air purification machines to reduce aerosols in designated clinics, to complement personal protective equipment and elevate safety protocol for patients, students, staff and faculty.
  • Providing emergency care to patients with persistent swelling, bleeding, or infection. Based on the date of submission of this message for publication, General Practice Residents and faculty screened more than 500 patients and provided treatment to more than 125, thus reducing the need for hospital emergency room visits.

As the relatively new dean, I expected to face multiple challenges, but would not have anticipated managing the impact on Nevada’s academic dental institution from a global health crisis. These accomplishments along with many others serve as a testament to the caliber, resilience, innovation, and perseverance of the students, residents, staff, and faculty at UNLV Dental Medicine. I hope you are proud of our collective accomplishments. I am.

Lily T. García, DDS, MS, FACP