The economic challenges facing the nation have been felt here in the state of Washington, where state revenues from sales taxes have decreased dramatically over the past several years. The state has found itself struggling to fund its many commitments, and higher education has taken tremendous cuts in state support.
The UW, incredibly, has lost about 50% of its state funding in the past four years.While everyone expects the University of Washington to weather these cuts, all units have been affected, and everyone is being asked to do more with less. The reality, though, if the economic condition does not turn around, is we will have to do less with less. Not an attractive thought, as who wants to have half of their teeth cleaned, or only one arch straightened?
The School of Dentistry has been challenged to change its operating model. With state dollars dwindling, we must consider functioning more like a privately run dental school, and tuition is likely to rise accordingly. Although no one wants dental or orthodontic education to become elitist, neither do we wish for the dental school to become financially insolvent. We all witnessed the round of dental school closures that occurred in the 80‘s and 90‘s, and because we do not wish that to occur, we will need to change the way we do business in our Dental School and in our Department of Orthodontics.
UW officials urge us to be creative, to find ways to weather this downturn, and to poise ourselves for recovery and re-emergence as stronger units in the next 10 – 20 years. All over the dental school, reorganization (to increase efficiency) is the buzzword. In our Department, all the faculty are teaching more. Our students will have to shoulder increased tuition. Administrative and clinical staffs are shrinking, and greater demands are being placed on those remaining. In the midst of all this change, I believe it is imperative that we continue to provide the highest quality education and patient care. That is our mission and our tradition, and I am not willing to compromise on these issues. But some things will not receive the attention that they have in the past. Research time may become limited for faculty and students. This is a serious problem, as scholarship and discovery have also been a tradition of our departent. Service to the dental school and to the profession will suffer too, as faculty have less time to volunteer their talents to local, regional, and national committees, councils, and organizations.
We are fortunate that the alums have previously created and funded the Moore-Riedel Professorship, allowing us to add another faculty member to assist with the mission of the department. Currently, David Turpin is our Moore-Riedel Professor, and he has already begun directing courses and applying for grants. Additionally, he also serves on departmental, School of Dentistry, and other various committees (some internationally, like the World Federation of Orthodontists). Kudos to the UWOAA for their foresight, as well as to David, for his commitment to the Department and profession.
Despite the challenges I mentioned above, I am optimistic that the changes we face in the next few years will indeed allow us to transform our dental school into a stronger institution. One that is financially self-sustaining, and therefore, more immune to the fluctuations in the economy and spending habits of the state residents. Our Department is making a significant investment in our future– the remodeling of our clinic. Through the generosity of all of you, we are planning to start the renovation in March, 2011. This $1.3 million project will modernize our clinic, creating an envi- ronment for patient care that matches the world-class reputation our Department has held for decades. The new clinic will transform our patients’ experience. The reception area will be completely redesigned, creating a more inviting and welcoming atmosphere. The clinic will have two dedicated consultation rooms, so that treatment can be described thoroughly with the aid of digital records and other diagnostic and educational programs. The Jim Clark Imaging Center is being created to allow the transition to completely digital records. All the operatories will be completely renovated with new dental equipment, cabinets, and computers. Our clinic conference room will be expanded, becoming the primary meeting space for departmental seminars and courses. It will house updated audiovisual equipment, including computers that will be networked to the School of Dentistry servers, thus allowing instant access to all patient records for clinical conferences.
It is impressive that the funding for this project has not been accomplished by huge gifts from only a few individuals. Rather, this has been a grass-roots effort, spearheaded by Tim Shields. Here are a few facts about our clinic fundraising:
– Almost 200 of our UW alums have donated (about half our graduates) – The largest single gift has been $50,000 – Eight individuals have pledged over $25,000 – The Class of 1983 has contributed the most ($90,000), with the classes of 1995 ($69,000) and 2000 ($63,000) close behind – Total pledged amount to date is about 1.2 million
– WE ARE WITHIN $100,000 OF OUR TARGET !!!
What a great fundraising campaign Tim has led, and we thank him for all his efforts! As we approach the start date for the renovation, I would like to reach out to each and every one of our graduates, thanking you for your tremendous support, and asking for just a little more so that the clinic fundraising effort can reach a successful conclusion. Our UW educations have allowed us to have wonderful careers. In that spirit, we should all consider giving back so that the next generation of UW orthodontists can be educated in a modern, well-equipped clinic that conveys the sense of excellence that is the hallmark of our Department.
With my best wishes for 2011,