Local Leaders Visit College of Dental Medicine
Local policymakers, community leaders, and their staff poured into a dental school classroom as part of Columbia University’s annual Project Medical Education, a national initiative of the Association of American Medical Colleges. The day-long July 23 event, organized by the medical center’s Office of Government and Community Affairs annually, introduced local leaders to the medical center's work training healthcare leaders and serving the local community.
In mid-afternoon, visitors gathered in a dental classroom to hear about unique initiatives to improve oral health in Upper Manhattan offered by the College of Dental Medicine. As the visitors learned, the school's work extends far beyond the dental chair.
Dean Christian Stohler, DMD, DrMedDent, discussed the school's new Center for Precision Dental Medicine, a cutting edge facility that offers state-of-the-art care to local communities by drawing on data analytics to personalize treatment. Burton Edelstein, DDS, MPH, Chair of the Section of Population Oral Health, discussed his team's community-focused efforts that stress disease prevention. Two examples he outlined were My Smile Buddy, a mobile application that helps community health workers assess children’s risk for tooth decay and encourage better oral hygiened for the whole family Other presenters included Mona Boside, DDS, an endodontics professor, James Fine, DMD, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Ross Frommer, Vice President and Associate Dean of the Columbia University Irving Medical Center, and two students who reflected on the student experience offering care to the local community.
A highlight for many visitors was a presentation by Candice Zemnick, DMD, a maxillofacial prosthodontist. Work like hers is little known but has a major impact: maxillofacial prosthodontists build lifelike prosthetic devices for people with defects to the face, mouth, teeth, and jaw. Her work is far more than aesthetic: it helps people speak, eat, hear, and be able to participate in everyday activities others may take for granted.
Alongside slides showing before-and-after photos of patients, Dr. Zemnick described her work to help close cleft palates, reset jaws, and even create lifelike eye prostheses for prominent parts of the face like the eyes.
When she showed a startlingly lifelike prosthetic ear built for a patient without ears, the audience took a collective gasp. “Wow,” one person exclaimed, as Dr. Zemnick discussed the case, stressing that the prosthesis was more than just aesthetic.
Theprosthesis made it possible for the man to wear glasses and it also helped funnel sound into the ear canal. Dr. Zemnick discussed the great financial cost work like this incurs, often including millions of dollars of uncompensated care that she offers to patients in need. “I could never say no,” said Dr. Zemnick.
After the presentations, the dean asked the leaders to reach out if there are needs in the local community that the school is not meeting.
"We are willing to think outside the box to meet the needs of the community,” he stressed. "The community is changing. We must change with it to meet its needs."