Dear IUSD Community,
The one-year anniversary of my appointment as the 10th dean of Indiana University School of Dentistry, and first woman in the position, arrived faster than I could have imagined.
I am so grateful for the experiences of the past year, as the dental school, profession, and university welcomed and embraced me into your community, again. Indiana University School of Dentistry is a community of great people, each with their own strengths, working toward a common purpose. I see why, for many, IUSD feels like family.
IU President McRobbie and Chancellor Paydar charged IUSD’s new dean with 1. Increasing our impact in research and discovery by growing federal grants; 2. Engaging a broad-based strategic planning process to establish our priorities and the actions to achieve them over the next five and 10 years; 3. Improving the climate for diversity, equity, and inclusion 4. Improving our clinical operations to expand access to excellent clinical oral health care and generate more revenue to support our mission; 5. Evaluating the administrative organization and processes to best support our mission and advance our strategic priorities, and 6. Completing the next phase of space improvements and renovations in support of superb education, patient care, and research.
In the past year, we have made progress in all of these areas. The implementation of the comprehensive strategic plan, and the associated continuous planning and improvement process, will drive the rest.
As I look back over the past 12 months, there are so many highlights, beginning in the summer with the IDA annual sessions and IUSD Alumni Conference, hosting students from King Khalid University School of Dentistry for a wonderful educational exchange, and the schoolwide welcome back picnic. Great vibes, great food, and great music by a house band, under blue skies and sun in the Fritts Clinical Center courtyard!
My first Dean’s Society and Scholarship dinners brought our amazing students and generous donors together to share collegiality, recognition of scholastic achievement, and the philanthropy that makes it possible. What we have been able to do under the leadership of the deans who came before me, and through the tremendous support of our many friends, alumni, and donors, is truly remarkable and singular among dental schools. I thank all of you who have reached out to me to commit your continued support of the school.
Later in the fall, I continued my listening and learning tour with this profoundly dedicated community. I am grateful for the wonderful welcome and support that the Chancellor, his cabinet and the other deans on this campus have provided to me in my first year! Indiana University is a great public research university, and IUPUI is a dynamic urban campus, academic health center, and innovation hub that supports the economic development of our region. What a fantastic place for a dental school!
We celebrated the establishment of our new dental informatics program, led by Dr. Thankam Thyvalikakath, in collaboration with the Regenstrief Institute. The Faculty Teaching Conference included training in unconscious bias, great test writing strategies, and bringing science to life in our didactic courses. National meetings, alumni receptions, and other social activities rounded out the winter and early spring. Through all of this, we recruited several new faculty in multiple departments. We also achieved the highest level of federally funded research of the past 10 years. Recruiting and supporting excellent research and clinical faculty has been a team effort, led by our department chairs and Deans Michael Kowolik and Gabriel Chu.
February brought to IUSD the 2020 national kick-off of ADA’s Give Kids A Smile, a program founded by Dr. Jeffrey Dalin (DDS’80). The event served more than 200 local children in one morning in our beautiful Fritts Clinical Center, where the night before, the IU Foundation Board held its winter meeting reception. Community engagement, philanthropy, teamwork and service were the themes for February!
And then, March. On March 6, the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Indiana. The entire school pivoted, rapidly. Within the span of two weeks, our faculty transformed curriculum to remote learning only, sustained care for patients with dental emergencies, and hibernated our research activities in compliance with the Governor’s stay-at-home order.
What the university and IUSD have accomplished through this pandemic makes me so proud. The dedication, flexibility, and evidence-based decision making demonstrated by our faculty, students, and staff has been nothing short of extraordinary. Our character has been tested, and we have risen to the challenge! Even in these extraordinary times, every member of the Class of 2020 graduated and passed the ADEX clinical exams. For the first time ever, graduation was held online, as was the welcome and orientation of the DDS Class of 2024. Although this is not what any of us wanted or expected, these rituals have been meaningful nonetheless, because of the resilience of the IUSD community.
Our budget has been significantly impacted by the four-month interruption of our clinical and research operations. We have projected about 50% lower-than-normal clinic revenues over the next year due to physical distancing requirements in our clinical and non-clinical spaces. The costs associated with enhanced PPE requirements also impact our budget negatively. We are fortunate, however, that we have been able to balance the budget for FY2020-2021 with minimal impacts on personnel. It has necessitated postponing some important projects and recruitments. However, we are optimistic that if we have no major interruptions in the coming year, we will recover from this financial blow within the next 12 months.
The end of my first year was a poignant and full-circle moment. My eldest child, Ben, was born in Indianapolis in 1990 during my residency. Most of my memories of that time are filled with Ben as a baby and small child while treating dental patients in IUSD’s Special Care Clinic during the AIDS pandemic. The first weeks of July this year reminded me of those times – the uncertainty, and the hope that science, education, and public health approaches provided for us. On Saturday, July 11, Ben married his sweetheart in a distant state, in the presence of only four friends. Although the large family wedding has been postponed due to the pandemic, we are grateful for the love that brought them together, and are happy and hopeful for their future. Why is this relevant to my reflections now?
When I was pregnant with Ben, I remember walking past Riley Hospital with my unborn child in my belly, while another mother watched over her son, Ryan White, as he fought for his life. The television vans kept vigil, and celebrities wrote songs for him. At that time, we did not know much about HIV and how to treat it. Then, as now, we relied on the best science to safely care for patients who suffered from the ravages of a novel virus as well as the associate stigma and discrimination. IUSD was a beacon of hope to these patients.
We are called upon once again to care for those most affected, to rely upon science to base our decisions, and to commit to social justice and equal access to care. The pandemic has highlighted the health disparities caused by social determinants of health, and oral health continues to be one of the largest unmet needs among the vulnerable and underserved. As the only dental school in Indiana, we once again will lead and serve those whom society has forgotten.
What can we expect over the next 12 months?
- Continued design and delivery of our hybrid in-person and online curriculum in all programs for academic year 2020-2021 to accomplish two equally important goals: 1) deliver excellent clinical education to prepare all of our graduates for a successful career in their field, and 2) keep the school community and patients safe by preventing the spread of COVID-19 at the dental school.
- Continued re-building of our Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and Hospital Dentistry, in support of our residency program, and to support medically necessary dental care for patients with special needs. We welcomed our third full-time faculty to the department, Dr. Nigel Shaun Matthews, who joins us in August. Dr. Andrew Bartels (DDS’19) joins us as a clinical fellow in Hospital Dentistry, joining Dr. Pam Linder.
- Dissemination and launch of Strategic Plan 2020-2025. This strategic plan incorporates student, faculty, staff, and alumni input, and will be unveiled later this summer. Implementation teams will deliver the action plan for each goal, and re-evaluate our progress and plan one year at a time.
- Preparation and planning for our September 2021 Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) site visit. Prior to the pandemic, this work was to be completed in 2020. CODA has postponed all site visits for all U.S. dental schools by one year. Dr. Paul Edwards, senior associate dean for academic programs, is leading the accreditation task force, along with our graduate and allied dental program directors.
- Further development of our clinical education programs in Comprehensive Care Dentistry and the dental specialties within a new paradigm necessitated by the pandemic. Physical distancing and a need for flexibility to ensure timely patient care, has required us to re-allocate our clinical and pre-clinical spaces, expand our clinic hours, and pivot to a Comprehensive Care model in our predoctoral program. We will increase and enhance clinical experiences for our learners, expand patient-centered care provided to the community, while implementing practices to increase the productivity and the financial sustainability of our dental school clinics.
- Taking actions to ensure the dental school is a safe space for all people, regardless of gender, sex, race, socioeconomic status, faith, immigration status, disability, age, and other dimensions of diversity. Open dialogue about diversity issues provides learning opportunities for all of us to grow in our understanding of race, power, privilege, unconscious bias, and cultural competency. We will provide resources for all to thrive in a multicultural work environment.
- Strengthening of existing partnerships with our alumni, dental profession, donors, industry, campus leaders, IU schools, and community organizations to advance the goals and mission of the dental school.
- Renewal of our patient care, education, and research missions to ensure a stable financial future and continue essential faculty recruitment and important space improvement projects. We are refining our administrative structures and processes to base decisions on timely and accurate data and improve transparency.
As health professionals and educators, we have the power individually and collectively to make our community and our world a better place through our impact, one person at a time. As Indiana’s dental school, and one of the top dental schools of the 21st century, our purpose and our legacy is to make the world a better place through our impact on public and population health. This is a rare moment in history, and a unique opportunity for us to embrace change and create our future.
A year ago, I was so excited to return to my dental school as dean. After this unprecedented year, my enthusiasm has been affirmed. I am truly grateful to be among the IUSD family. We are #IUSDTogetherStrong.
Carol Anne Murdoch-Kinch, DDS, PhD, FDS RCDS(Ed)
Professor and Dean
Indiana University School of Dentistry