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Columbia University College of Dental Medicine and University of Puerto Rico Partner to Strengthen Oral Health Care

Columbia University College of Dental Medicine and University of Puerto Rico Partner to Strengthen Oral Health Care  NEW YORK NY (January 11, 2017)— To cement a new partnership advancing oral health through community based research, education, and care, Deans Christian

Columbia University College of Dental Medicine and University of Puerto Rico Partner to Strengthen Oral Health Care 

NEW YORK NY (January 11, 2017)— To cement a new partnership advancing oral health through community-based research, education, and care, Deans Christian S. Stohler, DMD, DrMedDent, Columbia University College of Dental Medicine (CDM), and Ana N. López Fuentes, DMD, MPH, School of Dental Medicine at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), signed a memorandum of understanding yesterday.

This partnership between two preeminent schools—CDM, one of three Ivy League dental schools, and UPR, the only bilingual dental school accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), will pool academic and research resources to yield tremendous opportunities for students and faculty to develop joint ventures. 

The agreement identifies shared interests, such as community needs assessment and continuous care, oral health literacy, research on biomedical services and management technology, smartphone and mobile medical apps and systems, as well as student educational programs. Each project will be designed to strengthen dentists’ attention to specific community needs, both in Puerto Rico and on the mainland U.S. 

“As any clinician treating a new population discovers, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to care,” said Dean Stohler. “We hope that our community-based collaborations lead to more informed approaches to addressing oral health needs.” 

In addition to research, student opportunities may help address the shortage of Hispanic and Spanish-speaking dentists in the continental U.S., as identified by organizations including the Hispanic Dental Association in a 2013 white paper. Dean López Fuentes sees a unique role this partnership can play in addressing the issue. 

“We are the leading educational institution for oral health professionals in Puerto Rico and Latin America,” she said. “By working with communities in Puerto Rico and New York City, we will encourage cultural competence in future clinicians. I believe this can help strengthen care for underserved Hispanic communities throughout the nation.” 

The two schools are uniquely suited for this partnership, which continues a longstanding relationship developed when Columbia helped found the UPR dental school 60 years ago, said Dean López Fuentes. 

Furthermore, noted Dean Stohler, the two schools’ visions dovetail, taking a holistic and evidence-based approach to patient care, strengthened by their positions within academic medical centers. 

“We strongly believe that oral health is essential to overall health, and must be advanced by research, creating an evidence-based approach to care.” 

Continuous collaboration between the two deans, both academic leaders committed to expanding the partnership in years to come, will be a key asset. Dr. Stohler has served in his role since 2013 after 10 years as dean of the University of Maryland School of Dentistry. At both schools, he has been a driver for technological and research advances. Dr. López Fuentes has been in her role for two years and on the faculty of UPR for 29. As dean, she has forged numerous public and private partnerships and led advances in the school’s technological resources. She also serves on the Council of Deans Administrative Board to the American Dental Education Association and will become the chair/president of the council. She is the first dean of the UPR system to hold that position. 

The two schools also both celebrate landmark anniversaries this year, UPR celebrating 60 years and CDM a century.

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