Message from Dean Guthmiller
Dear UNMC College of Dentistry Alumni,
During this unprecedented time in our nation and in our communities, I want you to know that I am thinking of you and your families. While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our lives in many ways, it is during challenging times that we are reminded of how much we have to be thankful for, and every day I am reminded of how grateful I am to be part of the College of Dentistry community.
Our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the college have come together to help the college overcome the unexpected challenges that have arisen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have shown amazing resiliency, tenacity and strength. The college continues to thrive as we convert challenges into opportunities and navigate this journey together.
As I reflect on the spring and summer, I am inspired by all we achieved—our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the college have continued the College of Dentistry’s tradition of excellence in education.
- In May, all senior students completed their requirements and graduated on time.
- In June, the dental hygiene class of 2020 was the first class in the nation to complete the required clinical licensure examination using simulated manikins.
- Throughout the summer, students were able to continue to practice hand skills at home because the college purchased electric handpieces and other equipment.
This fall, due to extensive efforts by our administration and faculty, we continue to offer our students the most rewarding, safest educational experiences possible.
- Our first-year dental and dental hygiene students are onsite for 100% of their learning and the upper classes have a combination of onsite and hybrid learning.
- There is 100% attendance onsite in all simulation laboratory classes in the newly renovated clinical and virtual simulation laboratory which allows for physical distancing.
- Students continue to participate in community outreach activities, including providing patient care to the underserved at Clinic with a Heart and helping to distribute oral health items and education throughout the state.
- Students continue to use the most innovative learning technology, including the Simodont Dental Trainers, to build their clinical skills and confidence.
Patient care updates
The College of Dentistry has worked to create the safest environments possible so students could resume their clinical educational experiences and patients could resume receiving routine dental care. In June, the postgraduate programs began resuming patient care, followed by the predoctoral programs in July, after all students had received proper training.
The college's phased opening was guided by the college's clinic reentry manual, which is based on recommendations from the college's clinic reentry task force and guidelines from numerous sources, including: CDC; OSHA; ADA; NDA; UNMC infectious disease experts, engineers and facilities teams; and other dental programs.
- Redesigned service operation and flow from the time a patient is contacted to the time they exit the college.
- Made changes to deal with airflow and clinic spacing to conform with the ever-changing guidelines and recommendations from organizations such as the CDC.
- Made changes in treatment approaches to minimize aerosol generating procedures; purchased extraoral high evacuation suction units to assist in minimizing such aerosols.
- Students are paired up as first and second operators and there is an assistant for procedures. Made changes to clinic workflow so runners are available to get needed supplies and alert faculty and staff when students need assistance.
- Secured an adequate PPE supply of gowns, face shields, masks and respirators. Provided fit testing of N95 respirators for all students and staff. Provided PPE training for students and staff on new donning and doffing procedures.
- Trained providers on nasopharyngeal swab collection and partnered with the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory to test patients for COVID-19 before they are scheduled for aerosol generating dental procedures (using the gold standard in COVID-19 testing).
- Redesigned the electronic health record to add patient screening questionnaires.
- Received the NE CARES Response and Recovery Award and Stabilization Grant to create nine airborne isolation infection rooms for safety (3 rooms in Lincoln Dental Clinic; 3 rooms in Omaha Dental Clinic; 3 rooms in Munroe-Meyer Institute) and purchase extraoral evacuation units.
What we've learned: changes to clinical protocols (October 2020)
As we have learned more about SARS-CoV-2 infections and transmission of the virus, the college has continuously evaluated the clinical protocols and the evolving guidelines published by the CDC, OSHA, and the ADA, and continued discussions with other dental schools throughout the country. Evolving evidence and acquisition of supplies supported changes in the college’s clinic protocols.
- Changes in COVID-19 testing protocols. (Adults – continue PCR testing for high-risk aerosol generating procedures, Children – continue COVID-19 testing for aerosol generating procedures, etc.)
- Continue duplicate screening processes and continue to use the appropriate PPE, rubber dam isolation, intraoral high-volume evacuation extraoral suction units and assistants for aerosol generating procedures.
- Continue to seek a point-of-care test and initiate the process for a CLIA certification waiver.
- Increase capacity in the clinics.
- Students resume experiences at service-learning sites statewide.
The college will continue to evaluate these protocols and use local and national guidance and research to make further modifications, if needed.
Together, overcoming challenges and continuing to thrive
The College of Dentistry community has much to be thankful for as we work together to overcome challenges and continue to thrive. Every day, we celebrate:
- The achievements of our students, faculty and alumni. Our students are growing into tomorrow's leaders in oral health; our faculty continue to receive recognition for their work in education, patient care and research; and our alumni continue to make important contributions to the dental profession.
- How we continue to transfrom dental education in our clinical and virtual simulation laboratory and digital design studio. Our students are immersed in innovative educational experiences.
- How the college continues to grow, most recently through our revitalized partnership with UNMC’s Munroe-Meyer Institute that will allow the college to provide dental services for patients with disabilities.
- How we continue to provide important oral health services and education to diverse groups of Nebraskans, and how we are working to create a more diverse and inclusive community where all are welcomed.
We are blessed to have an incredible alumni community. Thank you for your ongoing commitment to the College of Dentistry. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me.
Janet M. Guthmiller, DDS, PhD
Dean, College of Dentistry