125 years of smiles

Bright whites are flashing at the School of Dental Medicine as it nears its 125th birthday.

The milestone event will be marked by a Nov. 1 dedication of the Robert Schattner Center, a 70,000-square-foot space that houses an admissions and emergency clinic, an oral and maxillofacial surgery center and a specialized facility to treat medically-compromised patients. An invitation-only dental leadership forum kicks off the celebration today.

Dental School Dean Raymond Fonseca, who is serving his 14th and last year, said the nation’s third oldest dental school has many reasons to be proud. He pointed out that Penn dental students have distinguished themselves by taking a multi-disciplinary approach to their studies. “We live on the campus,” said Fonseca. “Our students have the opportunity to interact with the other schools. We have students who are doing a master’s degree of education and at the same time getting a D.M.D.”

The students also travel beyond campus. One third of seniors spend time studying abroad, and every student devotes 40 hours to community service before graduating, said Fonseca.

A strong tradition in research permeates the school’s history. Fonseca said the faculty is making important contributions to the study of virology (a herpes virus vaccine is in the works) and pharmacology.

The school has also kept pace with the times. Faculty have taken advantage of technology in innovative ways, said Fonseca. Many of the courses offer an online component, such as viewing histology or pathology slides on the Internet.

Fonseca said that when he started in the late ’80s many of the nation’s dental schools were closing, yet Penn escaped the trend. Instead of closing doors, he said, the school continues to improve and expand its physical plans.

More information at www.dental.upenn.edu/125.

Originally published on October 31, 2002