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Fall 2020 Term Welcome

August 31, 2020

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, Alumni, and Friends:

This annual welcome to the fall 2020 term comes during extraordinary times that will be among the most unusual and challenging in the 145-year history of our school. Whether you continue to learn and work from home, provide care in one of our clinics or conduct research in our labs, know that you are a vital part of our mission to advance health through education, service, research and discovery. The circumstances this fall are so different from anything any of us have experienced before, yet the caliber and commitment of our students, faculty and staff are robust and will assure our ongoing excellence. 

This year we faced daunting challenges after the COVID-19 pandemic swept around the world. Our community of 684 students, 345 staff, 135 full-time faculty and 282 adjunct faculty responded with an inspiring mix of dedication, drive and determination in quickly implementing enhanced health and safety protocols, as well as moving our educational mission to online instruction, all in an amazingly short period of time.  Our collective response over the last six months gives me fresh optimism for our new school year. 

During these last six months, I saw that no matter the difficulty, no matter the problem, we are the most successful when we come together and work in teams to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. A beautiful example of that is the DENTIEs awards where our students acknowledged the responsive and innovative work our faculty deployed to continue our educational mission.  If you have not seen the video, it is worth your time and you can access it here. I am aware and appreciative of staff members who have embraced flexibility in their job duties to accommodate new requirements, responsibilities and coverage for colleagues on leave.  I’ve also heard heartwarming stories of patients who have been incredibly grateful for the availability of care and the attention to safety in our clinics.

Looking ahead, many challenges remain, including significant budget gaps, uncertain PPE supplies, and the myriad ongoing public health challenges of the pandemic.  While our students have returned to the school in stages over the summer, the university has been working hard to safely restart other parts of campus for the Fall. I hope you appreciate the personal role each of us plays in keeping our school, campus and community safe by adhering to all recommendations and guidelines for what a “public health informed semester” needs to include both on campus and off. I can’t say it enough: our individual actions and decisions impact all of us.  You can monitor the latest data on testing and positive cases on campus on the Maize & Blueprint dashboard page.

Next week, we welcome the class of 2024 on campus. The new classes began coursework online in May and June and will now begin on-site for pre-clinical and simulation lab work at the school.  In the coming weeks we will be opening newly renovated clinics with state-of-the-art equipment and instrumentation.

In six to eight months, we will open new research facilities.  I look forward to this renewal of our facilities and the welcoming of new members to our community while being attentive to keeping the density in our building at the minimum to deliver our mission.

Many of us will remain apart, but we will continue to find ways to break barriers and bring people together. We’ll share our lives, experiences and talents, and we’ll get to know each other despite our distance. I trust in your continued and collective resiliency that will master our challenges and guide us to excel in new ways we never thought possible.

Stay safe and have a great fall semester. 

Thank you and Go Blue!

Dean Laurie McCauley

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