Category: Deans blog

Respect, Tolerance, and Inclusiveness at the School of Dentistry – 2016

Dear School of Dentistry Community,

Intolerance and bias comes in all forms such as religious, racial, sexual orientation or identity, age, gender, and educational or social status.   It is important for us to demonstrate our exemplary character and values in all we do, to all we meet, and to all with whom we interact. As an academic and healthcare institution, intolerance should never find a home at the School of Dentistry.  The expectation is all people that learn, work, and receive care at the School of Dentistry and VCU Dental Care are treated with respect and dignity, provided privacy of their health and personal information, and enjoy freedom of expression without fear of retaliation.  This is my expectation and I ask that everyone join me in that expectation.  The establishment and maintenance of a humanistic environment is everyone’s responsibility and each and every person must take ownership of ensuring a school culture of inclusiveness and tolerance.

According to the VCU Creed: Philosophy for a University Community

“Academic institutions exist, among other reasons, to discover, advance and transmit knowledge and to develop in their students, faculty and staff the capacity for creative and critical thought.  At Virginia Commonwealth University, members of the community should strive to exemplify the following specific ideals in addition to other worthy ideals:

  • To demonstrate academic and personal integrity.
  • To respect the rights and property of others.
  • To be open to others’ opinions.
  • To uphold academic freedom and freedom of intellectual inquiry.
  • To appreciate diversity and to value and learn from the uniqueness of each person.
  • To uphold the right of all persons to be treated with dignity and respect and to refrain from all forms of intimidation, harassment and illegal discrimination.
  • To demonstrate and respect intellectual courage in situations that demand it.”

The VCU Code of Conduct is explicit and defines Real Expectations of all employees.  Similarly, the VCU Student Code of Conduct sets expectations for students.   All members of the VCU Community are required to engage in responsible social conduct that reflects credit upon the University community and to model good citizenship in any community.

As I stated last evening during the Dean’s Dinner with our student leadership, the deans in the dean’s office are there to help any student who feels they need to discuss any problem, including those related to respect and inclusion.  In addition, these are resources available to student, staff, and faculty at VCU to discuss or assist you with these issues:

Division of Inclusive Excellence  (
University Counseling Services (
Wellness Resource Center (
The VCU Dean of Students, Dr. Reuban Rodriguez (
The VCU Student Assistance and Support Team (
Equity and Access Services and Title IX Compliance (
VCU Employee Relations ( or 828-1510)
VCU Dental Care Employee Relations (828-8873)
VCU Ombudsperson (
VCU Helpline (
VCU Employee Assistance Program (http://
VCU Dental Care Employee Assistance Program (1-800-327 2255)

I welcome your thoughts on this message and the accompanying expectations.  Please take a moment to view this short video of what your fellow VCU community members said “What does respect look like at VCU?”

Dr. Tegwyn Brickhouse Appointed Director of the Oral Health Services Research Core

I am pleased to announce the formal establishment of the Oral Health Services Research Core in the Philips Institute for Oral Health Research and naming of its first director, Dr. Tegwyn Brickhouse.  The core’s mission is to conduct oral health services research and partner in strategic initiatives with the university, health system, and community to improve and integrate oral health into overall health and healthcare.  This is a critical area of research expertise that our school must develop to position ourselves for research and education in oral health services and public health dentistry.  Hardly a week goes by that I am not contacted with inquiries on access to care, dental workforce, dental graduates career choices, oral disease statistics, and dental insurance.   I am sure you have seen the headlines on the oral health crisis in America, doubling of hospital emergency department visits for dental problems, and declining dentist migration to rural and underserved areas.  Adults appear to be seeking dental care at lower rates and only 50% of children with public support for dental care have seen a dentist in the past year.

The rising cost of dental education and the national average educational debt of $250,000 of graduating dental students have negatively impacted the distribution of dentists and are fueling the development of alternative providers and practice models.  The Commission on Dental Accreditation recently announced it is implementing accreditation of Dental Therapy Programs.   The 2016 Virginia General Assembly adopted a bill to expand remote supervision of dental hygienist beyond the Virginia Department Health and into certain venues to increase access to preventive care for underserved populations.   The effectiveness of our current and future models of care delivery require ongoing study and assessment.

Over the past two years, Dr. Tegwyn Brickhouse and I have conducted meetings and conference calls with researchers, academic leaders, leaders in the insurance industry, leaders in government agencies, and political people to understand the need and to create a vision for this research core.  There is so much that is needed to be learned regarding dental public health and dental services utilization, particularly in Virginia.   Additional exploratory projects are underway with the Chesterfield County Schools Systems and the VCU Health System’s Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill, VA to bring needed dental services to underserved individuals.

With VCU School of Dentistry the only dental school in Virginia, we must become experts in oral health services and disparities research.   Dr. Brickhouse is being appointed full-time to lead the development of this initiative effective July 1, 2016 as a member of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry.  Dr. Brickhouse will continue to serve as the Chair of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry while we conduct a national search for a new department chair.

Dr. Brickhouse has served as department chair since 2010 and she led a number of key initiatives and has been recognized for her work.  These include:

PI of HRSA grant for VCU to receive $2.4 million grant to increase dental care access for underserved children and adolescents and to improve inter-professional training for pediatric dentistry students

Founding Chair of the Virginia Oral Health Coalition, a state-wide non-profit which strives to:

  • Change perceptions of oral health
  • Remove known barriers between people and oral health services
  • Build an effective oral health infrastructure by ensuring that Virginia’s dental health system can meet the needs of underserved populations
  • Under her leadership this organization secured over $1M in grant funding, contracts, and donations.

Established a relationship with Children’s Hospital of Richmond and VCU’s pediatric  dental program that led to integration of faculty support and resident patient care rotations at the Brook Road hospital practice.

Created the Pediatric Dentistry Board of Advisors and led the fund raising effort which resulted in the establishment of the Farrington Mourino Distinguished Professorship.

Serves as a member of the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services (Medicaid) Dental Advisory Committee and established a data sharing agreement with DMAS to examine dental utilization in Virginia’s Medicaid program.

VCU Health’s representative to the Children’s Health Insurance Program Advisory Committee of Virginia (CHIPAC).

On-going collaborations with VDH Division of Dental Health related to their needs assessments, sealant programs, and courses for training dentists to treat patients with disabilities.

Chair for the Council of Scientific Affairs of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s Jerome B. Miller For the Kids Award awarded by Healthy Smiles Healthy Children Foundation.

The Professional Achievement Award for Women in Dentistry, WISDM Virginia Commonwealth University.

Fellow of the Virginia Dental Association and Fellowship in the American College of Dentists

Served on the scientific advisory board of the National Children’s Oral Health Foundation, awarded Affiliate Site of the Year and received grant funded for five years to support community outreach and engagement.

VCU iCubed Program Trandisciplinary Core Team Member for Oral Health in Children and Adolescences

“Quote” from Sarah Bedard Holland-Executive Director of the Virginia Oral Health Coalition

“I applaud the VCU School of Dentistry for putting resources towards the oral health access issues and the future of oral health.  VCU is uniquely suited to address issues related to access, disparities and workforce; the Coalition looks forward to working collectively with the school and Dr. Brickhouse to seek solutions to improve oral health for all Virginians. Dr. Brickhouse has a long-standing, demonstrated commitment to furthering evidence-based solutions to complex oral health access issues. She is the perfect fit to lead this new initiative.”

The cores’ activities will include:

  • Analysis of health care claims data to understand the impact of healthcare reform and innovations in healthcare delivery, including a focus on solutions to dental workforce and oral health disparities among vulnerable, rural, and under-served populations.
  • Explore additional educational programs and curriculum for students in the area of dental public health.
  • Support the School of Dentistry’siCubed Core of “Transdisciplinary Oral Health in Childhood and Adolescence”.  This core supported by the provost’s office will promote diversity and inclusion in urban-focused research, creative activity and scholarship and focus on:
    • Broadening access to education for students of diverse backgrounds.
    • Creating an inclusive environment for diverse faculty.
    • Being a catalyst for connections within the university community and with the community at large.
    • Fostering innovative research and solutions to societal problems across boundaries.
  • Partner with local and national organizations (e.g. ADA, VDA, Virginia Oral Health Coalition, Virginia Health Care Foundation) to connect national data with state-level needs and initiatives.
  • Engagement in the broader university and health system to increase capacity for dental care to children and individuals in rural and underserved populations (e.g. South Hill).
  • Fundraising and Advocacy related to student pipelines for dental careers and support for clinical training opportunities and dental care for underserved populations (e.g. general assembly, middle schools, community foundations)
  • Representation of the school of dentistry and health system for children’s insurance and safety net programs. (e.g. Children’s Health Insurance Program Advisory Committee, DMAS Dental Advisory Committee, VDH, Virginia Oral Health Coalition)
  • Continue as PI of the school’s HRSA grant grant to increase dental care access for underserved children and adolescents and to improve interprofessional training for pediatric dentistry students.
  • The Director will lead the development of proposals to seek additional extramural funding to support the core’s mission.



2016 Student and Resident Research Fellowships and Faculty Mentors Selected

AD Williams Student Research Fellowships 2016

The purpose of this fellowship program is to expose promising students in the School of Dentistry to an active and productive research atmosphere, and to serve as an avenue for exploring options for a future academic and research career. This year’s fellowships have been awarded to:



Alexander Fellowship Awards 2016

It is crucial that dentists, whether practicing or in academic careers, understand the role of research in dentistry and appreciate its impact on the changes that the profession will experience in years to come. The Alexander Fellowship program provides funds to postgraduate students in the School of Dentistry to pursue research activities while training. This year’s fellowships have been awarded to:


VCU Give Kids A Smile A Huge Success

Last Friday a large host of students, residents, staff and faculty members contributed to our annual Give Kids A Smile event at VCU School of Dentistry.  Under the leadership of Dr. Liz Berry in the Department of Pediatric Dentistry, preliminary data indicated over 200 children benefited from this event.  With the increased volume of patients, the entire Douglas and Pediatric Dentistry Clinics were full and busy way past 5 pm.  Faculty from the Department of General Practice jumped in with our entire pediatric dentistry faculty and residents to help these children go home and on the road to better oral health.  Students from all dental and dental hygiene classes volunteered in mass.  They even let me help out!  There are too many people to mention by name but you all know who you were and I appreciate your service, dedication, and hard work.   If you were there record a “Like”  or comment on SOD Facebook.





Paul Dado Kim Earns Third Place the ADA/DENTSPLY Student Clinician Research Program

Paul Dado Kim (D 2018) participated in the ADA/DENTSPLY Student Clinician Research Program at the 2015 American Dental Association (ADA) Annual Session which was held in Washington DC last weekend and won the 3rd place award in the basic science category. Kim’s study titled “TLR9-mediated inflammation triggers alveolar bone loss in experimental murine periodontitis” investigated the involvement of an innate immune sensor, TLR9, in the progression of periodontal disease utilizing a transgenic mouse model.  The results of the study showed that mice lacking TLR9 was protected against alveolar bone loss thereby identifying a possible new therapeutic target for periodontitis. “I am really happy to be part of this project. Our findings will hopefully be translated to the clinics to improve treatment outcomes,” said Kim.

A total of 61 students from each dental school across the country competed in the 56th ADA/DENTSPLY Student Clinician Research Program. “It was a great honor to represent VCU and came back home with an award among so many outstanding projects from all the different institutions,” said Kim. “I also would like to thank my mentor, Dr. Esra Sahingur, and the entire research team for giving me the opportunity to work in this project and for their continuous support”.

The results of this award winning study was published  in the journal Infection and Immunity last May; Kim, P. D., Xia-Juan, X., Crump, K. E., Abe, T., Hajishengallis, G. & Sahingur, S. E. (2015) Toll-Like Receptor 9-mediated inflammation triggers alveolar bone loss in experimental murine periodontitis. Infection and Immunity 2015; 83:2992-3002.

Congratulations to Paul Dado Kim!


Dental Continuing Education Office Update

Dr. Perry Jones has been serving as our Director Continuing Education since 2011.  At the end of September, Dr. Jones will be stepping down as director but will continue as a part-time faculty member and continue to provide instruction in the continuing education courses he has been offering.  Under his leadership, much positive change has taken place including reorganizing the office as a branch of Dentistry@VCU, implementing a state-of-the-art management system for course registration and record keeping, and lowering the operating cost of the office.   Under Dr. Jones watch, and with the help of Dr. Laurie Carter, our ADA CERP accreditation was successfully renewed.  I am very thankful for his service and his willingness to step into this role at a time when many other changes were taking place in the school.   With Dr. Jones stepping down, the Office of Continuing Education will be reorganized with Ms. Pamela Flynn reporting to Ms. Kim Jacobs in the Office of the Executive Associate Dean, Ms. Rebecca Pousson.  Ms. Flynn has relocated to Wood first floor, room 102.  As required for CERP accreditation, the program has an advisory committee which we plan to expand.  The advisory committee’s role is to provide guidance on priorities for course offerings.  If you see Dr. Jones, please thank him for his service to our CE program as well as to our school.

August Faculty Development Programs: CODA Advanced Education Program Preparations, Dental Trauma Research, and Promotion and Tenure

I am pleased to announce the upcoming programs for Friday August 28th.  Dr. Janina Lewis, Director of Faculty Advancement, and I will conduct a session for new faculty members on the faculty promotion and tenure system and process in the School of Dentistry.  This will take place in Brown Conference Room (Perkinson 3114) from 2:20 to 3:30 PM.  A special announcement was sent to new faculty members previously but if you missed it please let Dr. Lewis know you would like to attend.

Also on Friday August 28th, we are fortunate to have Dr. Roberta Pileggi, Associate Professor, Chair, and Director of Graduate Endodontics & Associate Dean & Director for the School of Advanced Dental Sciences at the University of Florida College of Dentistry (UFCD) speaking to our faculty. Dr. Pileggi will be speaking in Perkinson 3121 on two topics.  From 2:20 to 3:30 she will be discussing CODA Advanced Education Preparation at the UFCD.  Following this session 3:40 PM, she will be speaking on Dental Trauma Research, also in Perkinson 3121.  Both sessions are open to all faculty members.  You can learn more about Dr. Pileggi at

I personally enjoyed and learned much from program provided in July by the Behavioral Learning Team (BLT) from the School of Allied Health Professions last month.  The BLT faculty of Amy Armstrong, Laurie Cathers and Chris Wagner covered the array of topics our students will be learning in the new behavior sciences curriculum starting this semester.

As a reminder, under our new school schedule, Faculty Development programs are scheduled for the fourth Friday PMs of each month (except November and December for obvious reasons) and also the second Friday PMs in March, April and May.  Due to the international bike race, there will not be a program in September this year.

Looking ahead to October 23rd, the program will include ECHO 360 use, Exam Soft and setting up Blackboard and Banner Grade entry.

Dr. Clara M. Spatafore, D.D.S., M.S., Appointed Chair of the Department of Endodontics

I am pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Clara Spatafore as chair of the Department Endodontics.  She has been serving as the interim department chair since October 2014.   Dr. Spatafore attended West Virginia University where she received her undergraduate degree in Medical Technology.   Dr. Spatafore then earned her D.D.S., M.S. and Certificate in Endodontics from West Virginia University School of Dentistry.

A member of the American Association of Endodontics (AAE) since 1987, she has held a variety of leadership roles with the organization’s Board, including president, president-elect, vice president and secretary of its Executive Committee as well as a director. Dr. Spatafore, a Diplomate of the American Board of Endodontics, has been a member of several AAE committees, and she serves on the Journal of Endodontics’ Scientific Review Board. Dr. Spatafore lectures nationally and internationally in all facets of endodontics.

During her short time as interim chair she has accomplished much including the development of a strategic plan for the department and obtaining funding from the AAE Endowed Faculty Matching Grant program to assist in completing the fund raising for the Neil Dodds Professsorship.  Congratulations Dr. Spatafore!

Dr. Clara Spatafore, D.D.S., M.S., Appointed Interim Chair of the Department of Endodontics

I am delighted to announce the Dr. Clara Spatafore has joined our faculty and will serve as the interim chair of the Department Endodontics.  Dr. Spatafore was born in Clarksburg, WV, attended West Virginia University where she received her undergraduate degree in Medical Technology.   Dr. Spatafore then earned her D.D.S., M.S. and Certificate in Endodontics from West Virginia University School of Dentistry.  Following completion of her training, she served as an endodontist in the United States Navy.

Currently,she is a part-time private practitioner in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, and also serves as an assistant professor of endodontics at Drexel University’s School of Medicine.  Dr. Spatafore also serves as a clinical instructor at the WVU School of Dentistry.   A member of the American Association of Endodontics (AAE) since 1987, she has held a variety of leadership roles with the organization’s Board, including president, president-elect, vice president and secretary of its Executive Committee as well as a director. Dr. Spatafore, a Diplomate of the American Board of Endodontics, has been a member of several AAE committees, and she serves on the Journal of Endodontics’ Scientific Review Board.

Dr. Spatafore is a member of the American Dental Association, and currently, the Pennsylvania and Western Pennsylvania Dental Associations.  She also holds fellowship in the American College of Dentists.  Dr. Spatafore lectures nationally and internationally in all facets of endodontics.

Dr. Spatafore brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and networking to the VCU School of Dentistry.  Please welcome Dr. Spatafore to our faculty!

Student feedback spurs new course offerings

Every year prior to graduation, senior students are asked to provide feedback on their overall educational experience that is used to improve the dental and dental hygiene programs. Over the past several years, graduating dental students expressed that they wished more opportunities were available to tailor their educational experiences to their own areas of need and/or interest. As a direct result, the faculty of School of Dentistry has designed several senior “selectives” in a program that was implemented for the first time this fall.

Currently, there are seven selectives offered to senior students: endodontics, oral diagnostic sciences, oral surgery, orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics and prosthodontics. An eighth offering is in the works; cosmetics and aesthetics, housed within the Department of General Practice with cooperation from the other specialties, is expected to be available to students starting in summer 2015. Most selectives run for one semester, with the exception of orthodontics and prosthodontics, which are full-year, longitudinal experiences. They are designed to enhance the individual student experience by allowing students to customize their education and offer advanced experiences that are not typically available to senior dental students. “The selectives are not mini-residencies,” shared Meredith Baines, director of curriculum innovation. “While students planning to specialize are welcome to participate, most selectives are intended for the generalist – to give generalists extra experiences in areas they personally want to further develop.”

For now, the clinical, patient-based selectives are open to senior dental students only. “We are open to the possibility of offering appropriately designed selective opportunities to other students in the future,” said Baines. And the hope is to expand current selective offerings to include a broader range of topics based on student feedback and faculty interest.

The student-driven initiative has proven beneficial to the clinical faculty and residents as well. They enjoy working in a one-on-one setting with enthusiastic and highly motivated students. A student’s primary responsibility still is to his or her core educational program, which includes a patient panel and service learning rotations. Students work carefully to schedule their selective experiences so as not to disrupt their primary clinical experiences.

The response from the current D4 class was outstanding. The first round of applications outnumbered the selective spots available at the moment. Every selective was filled to capacity for the fall semester. Applications for spring selectives will open soon. Senior dental students in good academic standing may apply.

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