Dean Lloyd Gives Update on Support for Students
“How remarkable it is that during these trying times, with so much uncertainty and ambiguity about what lies ahead, we have been able to do what Buckeyes have always done — come in first!” — Dean Patrick Lloyd
We placed first on two occasions last week — once here at Ohio State, and once in the Big Ten! Although these “firsts” won't make the front page of the Lantern or the Dispatch, they distinguish our college from others on campus and among all the other dental schools in this part of the country. These weren't competitions we set out to win — it just turned out that way. But, like so many other firsts, they were the result of hard work, perseverance, and a commitment to perform at one's best.
We are so proud and pleased that we were the first college at The Ohio State University that began bringing its students back to campus after the suspension of university activities caused by COVID-19. With the support of senior university administrators, a total of 56 senior dental students came back to Postle Hall last Wednesday and Thursday. They returned to complete their final competency assessment in endodontics; to show what they have learned about the discipline; and to demonstrate the care they are capable of providing for patients after they graduate.
Only a few days after these assessments were conducted, we learned that our college is also the first dental school in the Big Ten to re-engage students in their educational programs. Some of the other schools will follow our lead in a few weeks, while others have yet to determine when they'll be ready to "bring their students back." Being the first in this significant undertaking was yet another proud moment for us as College of Dentistry Buckeyes!
Although the effort to bring some of our students back to Postle Hall was initially a college-level decision, it could not have happened without the approval of the university’s senior leaders. To get their support, we had to make the case that we needed to be “an exception” on Ohio State’s campus. We provided background information about our students’ graduating with the ability to earn a license to practice and, therefore, the fact that they must be “ready to practice” when they leave our college. To do that, our faculty must be assured that each student has completed their education in a way that makes them fully competent as general dentists. And, we had to create a detailed plan for keeping our students, staff, and faculty safe during their return to Postle Hall.
When we learned the university had approved the request for our students to be the first to return to campus, we were not just grateful — we were ecstatic. It meant so much to all of us, and on so many different levels. It was an acknowledgement that we had successfully shown why our students needed this opportunity that would allow them to complete their education and training, and move on to the next chapter in their lives — entering private practice, beginning a residency program, or joining the military. This decision in our favor also demonstrated that we had convinced the university's senior leaders that we had the expertise, the capability, and the fortitude to carry out this complex task in a way that would be safe for all involved. And, most of all, it meant they trusted our judgement and commitment to our students, staff, and faculty.
When the day came to administer our senior dental students' competency assessments, everything went as planned. Students arrived on time. Staff were ready to help. And faculty were prepared to monitor the exercise and complete their assessment of each student’s performance. I was particularly impressed with our students’ professional demeanor throughout the assessments. Their consideration and respect for one another was evident as they carefully maneuvered around the pre-clinical laboratory to ensure “safe distancing.” I also saw their professionalism demonstrated by their interactions with staff and faculty during the many procedures associated with the competency assessment. Faculty members told me that several students expressed their gratitude for the time and effort that was expended in preparing and conducting the competency assessments. And some students even commented that they enjoyed being able to come back to Postle Hall “one more time.”
When it was all over, I had the pleasure of sharing the outcome of those two days with the university’s provost in a letter that ended this way:
“We appreciate this opportunity that the university provided for our college so these students could continue — and complete — their education during the COVID-19 outbreak. The success we experienced is indicative of our staff and faculty members' dedication to our students; their professional approach in supporting the needs of our entire college community; and the fact that they take pride in meeting the expectations of those who depend on them. I believe this experience foretells other positive outcomes as we gradually and confidently re-engage our students, staff, and faculty in returning to Postle Hall and meeting our tripartite mission.”
Although we have a great deal to accomplish before we bring everyone back to Postle Hall, this was a major first step. We had a chance “to try things out” in a well-controlled environment that included special scheduling protocols; using the appropriate personal protective equipment; maintaining social distancing; working in a setting that is substantially different than it was just a few weeks ago; and observing every protocol that has been established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
We learned so much during those two days, and it has made us well-prepared for our next re-entry steps. As we continue working to transition back into Postle Hall, we will maintain the same focus we have had since we suspended all activities on March 16 — ensuring a safe environment for everyone who enters our building.
How remarkable it is that during these trying times, with so much uncertainty and ambiguity about what lies ahead, we have been able to do what Buckeyes have always done — come in first!
Patrick M. Lloyd, DDS, MS
Dean and Professor