Message from the Dean - January 2021

A Message from the Dean

A message from Interim Dean Keith Mays, DDS, MS, PhD to the School of Dentistry Community

Integrity begins with you.

I have a niece who thinks she is my daughter and forces me to check in with her when traveling. Don’t tell her, but I like that part of her. She and I regularly text one another, and some time ago she responded with “SMH.” I had to visit the urban dictionary.
“Shaking My Head.”

There are many things that happen where our only response is to shake our heads, without uttering a single word. Questions of integrity are just one of those things.

In 2004, Charles Bertolami wrote an article entitled, “Why Our Ethics Curricula Don’t Work.” A line in the paper says, “No one has ever done the right thing because of taking an ethics course in dental school.”

Upon initially reading this article I thought it was an interesting point, but wasn’t convinced of his premise. However, after several years of teaching, I think it’s plausible that personal ethics and integrity are generated long before any of us enter school or the workplace, and the ethical training provided in dental school is more about professional standards of ethics and conduct, and not about personally doing the right thing.

Over the past year, we have been challenged by the pandemic to think about the greater good of our community. We have been asked to wear face coverings; to stay six feet apart; to limit gathering capacities and to forgo simple pleasures, like restaurants, malls, team sports and events, graduations, white coat ceremonies, and many things that were routine and normal prior to March 2020, all to protect ourselves and others.

Now, at the start of 2021, we have more hope with a vaccine, but still more concern of the impact of new emerging strains, such as the UK, Brazilian, and South African variants.

This means we are not out of the storm. We must continue to be vigilant with protective measures, social distancing and wearing face coverings.

This also brings us back to Bertolami’s point. He connected ethics with doing the right things, and his opening sentence reminds me that doing the right thing is a choice. It is the choice that comes when we are asked to do something and we begin to contemplate if this is okay, or how might this look. It is that moment when a voice in our heads, albeit soft or loud, begs us to question the actions we are about to take. As members of the School of Dentistry, we are connected, and our individual acts don’t only reflect us as an individual, but also represent the school. It becomes “the dean of the School of Dentistry did…”, not just Keith Mays did.

As we enter this New Year, I want to challenge each of us to always do the right thing for our students, staff, faculty, patients, school, university, and society, especially as we move through this next phase of the pandemic. The surge from Christmas and the New Year is increasing case counts, and the true impact of the vaccine on limiting spread remains unknown. Continue to wear your face covering, continue to social distance and continue to limit contact with people outside of your bubble.

It is the right thing to do.