The Dental College of Georgia joined the rest of the world the past few months in doing everything possible to stem the spread of the Coronavirus, or COVID-19.
“Every member of the DCG family has been called on to make extraordinary and unprecedented sacrifices in the best interests of our community and the citizenry at large,” said Dean Carol A. Lefebvre. “This pandemic has presented challenges never before encountered in our lifetimes. But everybody has been more than willing to do their part, and many have gone far above and beyond their normal responsibilities to stand in the gap for those we serve. We have truly witnessed the very best of humanity as we have joined forces to battle this virus.”
Safety was the highest priority, and the DCG joined the rest of Augusta University and the University System of Georgia in early March in suspending in-person classes, labs and non-emergent clinical care. Many employees began working from home, and technological initiatives including telemedicine and online instruction were utilized to maintain as many functions as possible.
Spring ceremonies including commencement and hooding also were postponed.
Lefebvre teleconferenced with dental school deans nationwide and representatives of the American Dental Education Association in March to review updates from the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). A CODA response team was formed representing the deans as a unified voice to advocate on students’ behalf. Information and updates are available at ada.org and adea.org.
The situation was still fluid at press time, but Dean Lefebvre emphasized the tireless dedication of the faculty and staff in doing everything possible to minimize disruption and uncertainty.
“Virtually everything we do has been impacted, in many cases on a monumental scale,” she said. “But this has been true of dental schools nationwide and beyond, and no stone will go unturned in meeting the needs of our students, residents, patients and employees.”
Added Dr. Nancy B. Young, associate dean of student affairs, “Our students remain hopeful and even requested to continue their online academics through spring break. Several have asked how they can help by volunteering.”
Members of the DCG community embarked on creative ways to support the college, university, alums and COVID-19 testing throughout the state. Dr. Jeffrey James, Associate Professor in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, mobilized a multi-disciplinary team of DCG residents to use 3-D printing technology to print the swabs used by AU Health for COVID-19 testing. The swabs were in short supply because they are manufactured in Italy, a COVID-19 hotspot. The swabs were ultimately used throughout Georgia to augment testing efforts. Further, DCG faculty and residents established a DCG Emergency Clinic and Virtual Helpline to keep patients with dental emergencies out of hospital emergency rooms. Faculty have also provide free continuing education to DCG alumni idled by COVID-19.
Lefebvre noted how humbling it has been to witness members of the DCG community stoically and courageously tackling every challenge presented to them — often multiple challenges within the course of a single day.
“We have created a new normal as circumstances change often on a moment-to-moment basis,” she said. “I have been amazed by the resilience of our administrators, faculty, staff, residents and students in rising to each challenge.”
Lefebvre added, “While each of us eagerly await the day we can resume our regular routines, it is impossible to emerge from a tragedy of this magnitude without being forever changed. We have grown from the hardships and learned so much, mostly about our capacity to adapt and evolve.”