Mission driven toward growth | A message from the dean

Dean Keith Mays in lobby of School of Dentistry office.

On an individual and personal level, this is the time of year when people begin to reflect on New Year's resolutions. As the School of Dentistry, it is important for us to similarly reflect, and as a part of that reflection, we recenter ourselves around our mission and core values. 

The University of Minnesota School of Dentistry advances health through scientific discovery, innovative education and the highest-quality care for all communities. The last phrase of our mission says we are committed to advancing health by providing the highest quality of care for all communities. Advancement implies that we start with an awareness of the current knowledge, techniques, materials and procedures and seek to improve each of these, over time, with the incorporation of new knowledge, techniques and procedures for the betterment of our patients. 

As we navigated the COVID-19 pandemic, I stated that we had three phases to move through: Recover, Restore, and Grow. At our September 2022 All Faculty & Staff Retreat, I stated that we were officially in our Growth phase. As we move into our future, we must continue to embrace a growth mindset. The most important word in that last sentence is we. Our ability to grow as a school is firmly rooted in our ability to grow as individuals, units, offices, divisions, departments and as a school. For some, this may mean developing, implementing or completing a professional development program. For others it may mean developing new skills or knowledge that support better performance. And it may require seeking people to collaborate with on new clinical advancements, research projects or pedagogical innovations. If everyone seeks and embraces a plan for individual professional growth, then we, as a school, will grow together. As the saying goes, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” 

We should harness growth and channel it toward the achievement of our strategic goals, from a unit, division, department and school perspective. As a school, one of our strategic goals is to implement an efficient, high-quality, patient-centered clinical model in the School of Dentistry. Many of you may not be aware that we maintain high patient-satisfaction scores based upon exit surveys. I share this so you may know you all are doing great work. But a growth mindset calls us to improve even when we do well. 

Our strategic plan also challenges us to increase the number of patients we care for in our clinics. Approximately 45% of our patients have medical assistance insurance. Overall, we provide more than 100,000 patient visits annually. Increasing our capacity will mean providing more care for Minnesotans, some with the greatest need. I encourage you to consider your sphere of influence within our school, and collaboratively work with others to help the school grow and achieve our mission of advancing health.