Oregon Health & Science University School of Dentistry has appointed a new chairman for its community dentistry department. Eli Schwarz, D.D.S., Ph.D., M.P.H., recently joined the school, replacing interim chair Denice Stewart, D.D.S., M.H.S.A., associate dean for clinical affairs.
"Community dentistry gives dental students a different perspective on what it is to study dentistry," said Schwarz, who is also a professor at the dental school. "It is important that they understand there is a world beyond the walls of the school."
Schwarz arrives at an important time for the school. The dental school class of 2011 is the first required to complete a one-week community-based rotation, in addition to serving one week at the OHSU Russell Street Dental Clinic. All 74 soon-to-be dentists have now completed care at one of 13 sites in communities ranging from private offices in rural and remote Burns and Baker City to safety-net public health clinics in Hillsboro and Cornelius. A handful of soon-to-be graduates sought more than one community-based rotation and several completed three or more. Studies have shown that providing dental students with diverse, hands-on clinical experience beyond school walls increases the chance that they may return to those communities to live and work.
"Community dentistry is a way of learning and a way of teaching that has come to stay and we need to find a happy medium between the inside and outside of the school walls," said Schwarz. "It isn't like you go to the clinic every day and focus entirely on your individual patients who choose to make an appointment. Community dentistry challenges you to consider the bigger picture, how individuals are part of society, what makes somebody visit a dentist and others stay away from dentists, and how social disparities impact access to dental care. It lives with you all the time."
Schwarz was most recently professor of population oral health, Faculty of Dentistry, University of Sydney, and adjunct professor in professional studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, School of Dental Medicine. Previous professional positions include professor and dean, Faculty of Dentistry University of Sydney; executive director of the American and International Associations for Dental Research (AADR/IADR); professor of public health dentistry and dean of dentistry, University of Hong Kong; and chief dental officer, National Board of Health, and associate professor, at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. Schwarz has a doctor of dental science and a doctoral degree from University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and a master's degree in public health (cum laude) from Hadassah Medical School, University of Jerusalem.
He is a founding fellow of the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine and a fellow in the specialty of community dentistry in the Hong Kong College of Dental Surgeons. He is also a fellow of the American College of Dentists and a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons. In 1987, he was conferred the Royal Order, Knight of the Order of Dannebrog, by Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.
"This position was attractive because the school wanted community dentistry to have a clear identification and provide dental students with a broad program, from health promotion to prevention to public health," said Schwarz.
Schwarz has been visiting local clinics and Pacific University's Dental Hygiene program, and has met with partner organizations in the community and with fellow OHSU chairs and faculty. "Meeting our partners gives a sense of the potential of what we are able to be a part of in Oregon, which is invigorating," he said.