The pandemic at one year | March Dean's Message

A Message from the Dean

This reflection is challenging to write, as it is difficult to truly capture and appreciate the progress, the successes, and the perseverance while looking back on the lost.

This past year has been filled with unexpected and unwanted disruptions. Normal gestures like the shake of a hand, a high five, a hug were removed from our daily routines. One year ago, we braced for the impact of a pandemic that would reshape how we teach, how we practice, and how we live. I venture to say that for most of us, we could not conceive that the months ahead would be defined by the stain left from the ravishes of a novel virus that scientists were learning new information on daily. Government agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and the Minnesota Department of Health released guidelines based on each newly revealed aspect of scientific discovery. In spite of the discoveries, we knew very little about how to protect ourselves and others from the virus.

In spite of the uncertainties, I witnessed the School of Dentistry faculty, staff, students, and residents reinitiate patient care. Faculty double taught preclinical laboratory sessions in order to appropriately socially and physically distance. Facilities staff coordinated the installation of plexiglas and other physical modifications. Students advocated for social justice and antiracism. Clinical systems staff stepped up and screened patients entering Moos Tower. Staff working remotely learned new ways to support faculty and students. Innovative solutions such as Dent-Air Vacs allowed us to resume aerosol generating procedures. We were able to graduate the class of 2020 and onboard new residents in the summer and dental, dental hygiene, dental therapy, and graduate students in the fall.

Deeply held traditions and ceremonies were cancelled. For example, we held no in-person graduations or celebrations, no white coat ceremony, and no in-person orientations. However, it is truly amazing that, as a school, each person has done their part to keep us moving; some days slower than wished for, but every day you all keep us moving.

Last summer I stated we had three things to do: recover, restore, and grow. I must say I thought recovery would take several months, perhaps to the end of the year. On a regular occurrence, it seemed as though, just when we thought we were potentially moving to the other side of the pandemic, the case numbers would explode; but now we have the vaccine and hope has truly come. The case numbers, death counts, and hospitalizations are decreasing and there is a glimpse of the light on the other side.

Even though the vaccine is here , there are still limitations. My hope is that each month brings us closer to being able to fully restore those things changed by the pandemic. Today we should reflect on just how far we have come over the past year, continue to live within the safety guidelines for today, and move forward into the new normal that will truly allow us to restore and grow as a school.

Thank you all for the hard work and dedication to keeping our community safe and healthy.