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Dean Borgia reviews dental school accomplishments in 2019

Partnerships help broaden dental school's purpose

Solid partnerships prompted so many positives in 2019. A number of events led to the dental school being able to reach a broader community of patients to improve oral health and enhance overall wellness where we live, teach and treat. Dr. Anthony 'Tom' Borgia, dean of the West Virginia University School of Dentistry, shares a compilation of updates below. 

WVU Dentistry partners with United Concordia offering expanded coverage to patients

When an existing working relationship with insurance company United Concordia Dental strengthened, it meant our Health Sciences Center neighbors, employees of WVU Medicine which is one of the state’s largest employers, could use their benefits whether seeing a faculty dentist, resident provider or dental student at the School of Dentistry. A prior arrangement limited the coverage to just the resident and dental student clinics.

Dental school is a resource for veteran’s oral healthcare and research into pain medicine care

We have been able to reach one of the state’s respected, but sometimes overlooked, populations. In partnership with the West Virginia Army National Guard, dental students and faculty have recorded medical histories, performed dental examinations and took dental radiographs on active National Guard soldiers as part of their mobilization readiness preparedness.

The dental school and WVU’s Center for Veteran, Military and Family Programs have plans to host a second oral health screening day for veterans on our campus and from in our community. In November, nearly 40 patients received screenings, x-rays, simple fillings and attention to their urgent dental care needs at no cost thanks to generous donors of a new veteran’s oral healthcare fund.

In collaboration with Uniformed Services University and WVU Medicine, dental school faculty and researchers are discovering ways to improve military pain medicine care for soldiers in the field.

Uniquely qualified dental professionals lead programs, teach and treat patients

The School of Dentistry continues to build its team of uniquely qualified oral health professionals to both train our students and treat our patients. This past year, our newest board certified pediatric dentist, Dr. Gina Graziani, joined the school as the Chair of Pediatric Dentistry and set out to collaborate with WVU Medicine Children’s to provide oral healthcare in the much anticipated and newly constructed children’s hospital. Dr. Graziani is a distinguished graduate of the WVU dental school who received pediatric dentistry training at the University of California, San Francisco. Recruitment is underway to bring another pediatric dentistry faculty member to the school. As the department expands, administration is considering the creation of a postgraduate pediatric dentistry residency program.

An oral medicine expert, Dr. Juan Bugueno, is seeing patients for detection, diagnosis and treatment of oral manifestations of disease including oral mucositis associated with chemotherapy treatment of cancer patients. His academic and clinic background focuses on the dental management of medically complex patients.

A forensic odontologist, Dr. Steven Whitaker, joined the school to lead the Department of Diagnostic Sciences and help manage the school’s Urgent Care Clinic. Oral Pathologist, Dr. Hiba Qari, is the dental school’s Biopsy Services Director. She has specialized experience in immunological conditions such as lichen planus, jawbone diseases and oral cancer and its precursors. The service she manages is less than three years old and is expected to review more than 1,300 biopsies before the end of the year. Bugueno, Whitaker and Qari are joined by renowned pathologist Dr. Jerry Bouquot. His work has been sited more than 8,000 times. Bouquot has published more than 340 papers, abstracts, books and chapters and has named more than three dozen oral diseases in his career.

Facility transformations improve dentistry workspace and patient care areas

The combination of approval from WVU Health Sciences leadership, support from donors and our desire to upgrade our dental school facilities has prompted much needed renovations. The school’s administrative, academic and student affairs offices have been renovated. The dental student locker hallway used by students and patients has been transformed from the 1957 into a modern, sleek and clean area for student lockers. The morale change on the part of the students from that upgrade alone was immeasurable because it was such a great improvement.

In the spring, a $1.5 million renovation project will begin in the dental school’s Urgent Care Clinic. An average of approximately 4,700 patients visited the Urgent Care Clinic each year between 2015 and 2018. The Urgent Care area is where most patients get their first impression of the dental school. The space is used for emergencies, initial assessments and screenings and it has gone relatively unchanged for six decades.

In 2020 and beyond, we can be the shining star of dentistry within the state and within the region, without question. We have the faculty and students who provide outstanding care. They need and deserve the best possible facilities to make the best contribution to oral health and overall wellness. Our goal is to contribute to the mission of the hospital, cancer center and children’s hospital. In order to do that, we have to be state of the art.