William V. Giannobile, D.M.Sc. ’96, P.D. ’96, assumed his role as dean of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) on Sept. 1. A prominent educator and leader in the field of periodontology, Giannobile shares his vision for the School, as well as his observations about beginning his deanship in the throes of a pandemic.
HSDM: Starting as a new dean during a pandemic comes with a host of challenges, could you describe how you’ll navigate these challenges in the near term?
GIANNOBILE: All of us have been significantly impacted by the pandemic. In particular, dental education and clinical care have been hit hard. I am extremely grateful to Interim Dean Vicki Rosen and the HSDM leadership team for navigating through some of the toughest parts of the crisis. They took important measures to protect our patients and our community. We will continue to focus on the safety of our students, faculty, and staff delivering clinical care in our clinics, while at the same time providing an excellent virtual learning environment for those students learning from home.
Research was also significantly affected with the shutdown of clinical and basic science research efforts. It has been very encouraging to see these activities ramp up again. Harvard has taken proactive approaches to protect our community with increased testing of our students, faculty, and staff who remain on-site. Our dental teams are involved in innovations in diagnostic testing including point-of-care testing with saliva diagnostics. Starting on Sept. 1, my biggest priority is working with School leadership to continue to support our clinical and educational efforts so that we can optimize our ability to further research, teaching, and clinical care in the face of the pandemic.
HSDM: What other priorities will you focus on at HSDM?
GIANNOBILE: I have identified several areas to assess the landscape at HSDM. This will include launching a climate survey that will take a fresh look at the current climate for our faculty, staff, and students. Promoting excellence through diversity and inclusion will be an important focus for me and for the HSDM community. We will begin the process of outlining a strategic plan and goals. This will be a grassroots effort involving faculty, staff, students, alumni, and HSDM-HMS [Harvard Medical School] affiliates. We will also look at initiatives for industrial-academic partnerships, dental care delivery in collaboration with affiliates, and development-related activities to promote a better cost structure for dental students. In the areas of research and discovery, we will look to strengthen our efforts in regenerative medicine, head and neck oncology, and computational medicine and the microbiome, among other emerging areas of research. The School also has exciting research in many areas such as the Initiative to Integrate Oral Health and Medicine, developmental biology, and digital dentistry that will continue to be supported.