The mission of 21st-century dentistry extends beyond the dentist’s chair and its traditional equipment. Health care is a global concern that transcends social barriers and disciplinary boundaries. As health care becomes increasingly interdisciplinary, dental and oral health leaders will take on new roles and stage important policy interventions that will greatly affect health across society. Oral health research generates knowledge and informs policy on public health, cancer, bone health, tissue engineering, pain, infectious diseases and artificial intelligence. More than a century since its founding, the Faculty’s vision remains an example to follow.
In 2019, the McGill Faculty of Dentistry launched its strategic planning exercise to provide a concrete pathway to achieving our ambitious vision for making the Faculty a leader among dental schools around the world. This process also gave direction for planning, programming and implementation of policies, strategies and new initiatives across the Faculty of Dentistry during the five-year period 2021–2026. The strategic planning and revised Faculty vision, mission and value statements were the driving force for finding a new name that reflected how the Faculty has evolved and progressed during its century-long history.
With innovative research programs and an innovative curriculum that changes to meet the demands of the dental profession, the Faculty of Dentistry has become more than just a dental school. Today, it has a new name that pays tribute to its history as a dental school, but also concretizes its mission of building a healthier future for all through interdisciplinary health research. Introducing, the Faculty of Dental Medicine and Oral Health Sciences.
Looking forward to the future
“Today, McGill’s Faculty of Dentistry is one of the most prominent Dental Medicine faculties in the world,” Dean Elham Emami notes. “Yet the name ‘Dentistry’ has long been an insufficient term to describe the reality of what our students and researchers are doing in the Faculty.”
From innovative research that is shaping the scientific landscape of biomaterials, neuroscience, and medical anthropology, to oral health research that has a meaningful impact on communities and informs public health policy—the Faculty is home to researchers who are experts in a remarkable variety of disciplines and methodologies.
“Our renaming as the Faculty of Dental Medicine and Oral Health Sciences,” Dean Emami continues, “will prepare the foundation for the next century of oral health professionals, reinforcing McGill’s leading role in oral health care and research at the provincial, national and international level.”
A change decades in the making
This renaming follows the decades-long track record of excellence and innovation in research, and the short period of crisis that preceded it.
In 1991, McGill University announced that it would be shutting down its faculty of dentistry. While no one doubted the quality of education provided by the Faculty, the University was in the process of becoming a research-intensive institution. Although a small handful of excellent investigators were still active, the Faculty of Dentistry produced relatively little research overall. But thanks to a concerted and very public effort by faculty members and supporters, the Faculty of Dentistry at McGill University was saved.
The period immediately following the threat of closure was one of great growth for the Faculty. Under the leadership of Dean James Lund, the Faculty made greater investments in dental research and community initiatives, including an innovative service to the community program. During these years, the Faculty of Dentistry would cement its reputation as a research powerhouse among dental schools around the world and a leading institution setting the example for community outreach.
The success of researchers was supported by the development of key research areas to guide the Faculty’s priorities. Under the guidance of Dean Lund, the Faculty established four pillars of research: 1) clinical and health services (recently renamed Population Oral Health to reflect the global scope of the research program), 2) Pain and Neuroscience, 3) Biomaterials, Nanobiotechnology and Tissue Engineering, and 4) Mineralized Tissues and Extracellular Matrix Biology. Teams of like-minded, energetic, and innovative senior and junior researchers focus their research efforts in an interdisciplinary way that is strongly supported by Faculty and University leadership.
A new chapter in the faculty’s history
Today, dentists have critical role in health care that transcends social barriers and disciplinary boundaries. Dentists and oral health leaders are amongst those who play role in early detection and diagnosis of infectious or life-threating diseases and collaborate actively with other health professionals to offer the best treatment for patients suffering from these illnesses. They also decide on important policy interventions that will greatly affect the well-being across society.
The Faculty has championed excellence in dentistry and community-oriented care for over a century. With this renaming, the Faculty of Dental Medicine and Oral Health Sciences is keeping this tradition alive, while also setting the stage for success and leadership in the next hundred years.
Here’s what the Faculty’s Associate Deans and student representatives have to say about the name:
Dr. Samer Abi Nader (Associate Dean, Undergraduate Dental Education)
The Faculty is truly turning a page with this renaming. As the Faculty of Dental Medicine and Oral Health Sciences, we recognize our roots in Dentistry, but we also look towards the role that dental professionals will play in the future as health care becomes increasingly interprofessional and collaborative with other disciplines and sciences. Clinicians and oral health scientists ultimately share a goal and vision of building a healthier future for all.
Dr. Nathalie Morin (Associate Dean, Clinical Affairs)
The rebranding and naming of the Faculty of Dental Medicine and Oral Health Sciences is an initiative that helps position the Faculty and the important work of our many clinics as part of the larger mission of health care at the University. Our community clinics are sites where students have experiential learning opportunities, but our work is not limited to the mouth. In fact, the relationship between oral health and general health is becoming all the more important in our delivery of care.
Dr. Svetlana Komarova (Associate Dean, Research and Graduate Dental Education)
As the Faculty of Dental Medicine and Oral Health Sciences, we are setting the Faculty’s already diverse research portfolio on a trajectory of success. Researchers in the Faculty have been pursuing innovative work in diverse areas broadly related to dental medicine, to the oral health sciences, to the dental education. During the pandemic, a but one example, the research of our professors helped inform policy for health practitioners. Moving forward, we can be proud that our Faculty name recognizes the wide-ranging contributions of our researchers.
Dr. Nicholas Maroun Makhoul (Associate Dean, Postgraduate Dental Education)
The Faculty of Dentistry has always maintained a strong relationship with teaching hospitals, and has some of the best residency programs in the country. Our team of hospital dentists and maxillofacial surgeons are deeply integrated into the healthcare system and focused on delivering comprehensive patient centred care. The Faculty’s renaming as the Faculty of Dental Medicine and Oral Health Sciences is an important and necessary step towards recognizing its role as health care providers and representing its focus on patients’ overall health though optimizing oral health.
Mehak Khanna (President, McGill Dentistry Graduate Student Society Committee)
Dentistry consists of diagnosis, prevention and treatment methods that are supposed to be evidence-based. This evidence comes from extensive research, be it basic sciences, population health, or biomaterials, etc. With this change in name to the Faculty of Dental Medicine and Oral Health Sciences, we are now acknowledging the exceptional and world-renowned researchers and graduate students at our Faculty who have been working towards cutting edge investigations, experiments and analysis. As a graduate student myself, I now feel the name of the Faculty is a blanket covering each one working under it.
Jeremy Sananes (President, Dental Student Society)
The formal re-branding of the Faculty of Dentistry at McGill University reflects the comprehensive care dentists provide patients; dentists do not simply treat the problem within the oral cavity, but rather provide treatment to the person as a whole. This integrated and interprofessional approach is representative of the evolution of dentistry over the years and is aligned with the renaming of the Faculty of Dentistry to the Faculty of Dental Medicine and Oral Health Sciences. Moreover, this transition adequately conveys the emphasis placed on the transformative research that takes place in our Faculty. The renaming illustrates the Faculty’s commitment to integrate evidence-based dentistry, holistic patient management, and population oral health in its approach to dental care.
The effort to save the Faculty in 1991 was spearheaded by Dean Ralph Barolet and aided by the MAUT with much vigour and support from dental researchers in other departments in the Faculty of Medicine. I was a proud supporter of “save the faculty”.
Dr. Hershey Warshawsky, Emeritus Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology