Pursuing roles as educator, editorialist
“Dentistry is not a sub-specialty of medicine, but an autonomous partner in health care delivery.”
Michael Glick, who became the 11th dean of the School of Dental Medicine in December, was born and grew up in Sweden. His father, now retired, was a dentist, as was his father’s sister and one of his father’s uncles; his own sister is a dental hygienist. Glick’s decision to study dentistry was strongly influenced by his father’s example.
He wanted to pursue a health care profession and chose dentistry over medicine largely for the independence it could offer. “You have your own office; you make your own decisions and that’s very, very attractive,” he says. “That’s what my father did and it appealed to me as well.”
He fell short of that dream. Rather than leading the life of rugged individualism in solo practice, he is entirely enmeshed in at least two large organizations and engaged with several others— he currently is editor of the Journal of the American Dental Association and president of the American Board of Oral Medicine—and, in his words, he is “doing medicine.” Of course, as editor of JADA and dean of the UB dental school he does get to make the decisions—but they’re more consequential than he’d expected they would be.
Glick did not come to the U.S. directly from Sweden. In 1973, he went to Israel to compete for Sweden in volleyball in the Maccabiah Games. The young country inspired him. He moved there to study—which required learning Hebrew and a four-year commitment to military service—taking a bachelor’s degree in medical science in 1981 and a DMD in 1985, both from Hebrew University Hadassah School of Dental Medicine. He was in private practice in Israel for a year.
It was his wife at the time who brought Glick to the U.S. for what they expected would be a stay of only a few years. She was coming for a PhD program at the University of Pennsylvania and he was the trailing spouse; he used the opportunity to study oral medicine in a residency program, also at the University of Pennsylvania. It was the beginning of the life he now leads.
When he completed his residency in 1988, the Temple University School of Dentistry offered Glick the opportunity to start a dental clinic for HIV-positive patients and patients with other contagious diseases. Today, the Infectious Disease Center, as it was called, would not be such an exceptional undertaking. But at that time, HIV-positive patients were shunned by many providers. In fact, a year after it opened, the center was the subject of a 1989 New York Times article under the headline “Amid Fears Over AIDS, One Dentist Offers Care.” The CBS news program “48 Hours” later featured Glick and three other health professionals providing care for HIV-positive patients.
Glick’s work with those patients also settled him in an academic career. (This was not in the family tradition, although his father did have a first cousin who was chair of a dental department in a Copenhagen dental school.) In the infectious disease center, the conditions he and his colleagues and students saw presented questions that they set out to answer. “We were fortunate to be working in an area that needed a lot of answers,” he says now.
He began publishing in 1987 as a resident and made his first appearance in the pages of JADA in 1989 as lead author of “Detection of HIV in the Dental Pulp of a Patient with AIDS.” To date, Glick has published more than 80 scientific papers and more than 100 book chapters, invited articles, monographs and abstracts, written two books and co-edited the 10th and 11th editions of “Burket’s Oral Medicine.”
From his early work with HIV-positive patients, Glick expanded his research interests to other types of medically complex patients. From 1996 to 2001, he was director of programs for medically complex patients at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, where he held the faculty rank of professor of oral medicine.
In 2001, Glick joined the faculty of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, where he was director of the division of oral medicine, director of the postgraduate training program in oral medicine and chair of the Department of Diagnostic Sciences.
He moved from New Jersey to Arizona in 2007, joining the faculty at A.T. Still University. When he was named dean of the UB dental school last October, he had a dual role at Still as associate dean for oral-medical sciences at the College of Osteopathic Medicine-Mesa and professor of oral medicine at the Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health.
In addition to the medically complex cases dentists see today, the medically complex population will surge in this country in the coming years with the aging of the baby boom generation because older patients are likely to have multiple health problems. Glick says now is the time to learn how to treat patients with co-morbidity.
For the past decade, he has focused on expanding the dentist’s role in health care to include screening for such conditions as hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and various cancers. Almost twice as many people in the U.S. see a dentist annually than see a physician, so the public health benefit of health screening in the dental office is potentially great.
Glick has been publishing articles on this subject in JADA and elsewhere since the late 1990s and editorializing on the dentist’s role in health care as recently as the November issue with “Expanding the Dentist’s Role in Health Care Delivery: Is it Time to Discard the Procrustean Bed?” arguing that state dental boards should allow dentists to perform medical screenings. In his latest research on the subject, conducted with a dentist colleague in Sweden and a cardiologist, dentists screened 200 patients for cardiovascular disease and identified a significant number who needed medical intervention.
The combination of medicine and dentistry was a natural one for Glick, who always had had an interest in medicine. He says that although he has been a practicing dentist for many years, he sees himself as a health care professional first, but one who is “very proud to be a dentist.”
Glick arguably has been the leading voice in dentistry—certainly the most widely read—since he was named editor of JADA in 2005. He is now in his second three-year term at the helm of the nation’s premier professional dental journal and hopes to serve a third term. He will have an editorial assistant in Buffalo; the journal itself is produced in Chicago.
His editorship is an opportunity for Glick to influence discourse about dental practice, both through the articles JADA publishes and through his own and invited commentaries. He is the gatekeeper, selecting among submissions and assigning reviewers.
And the potential reach of that influence is great. JADA has a circulation of 155,000. When Glick assumed the editorship, there were about 90,000 downloads of JADA articles annually; in 2009 there were more than 2.5 million. And during his tenure, JADA has expanded its Spanish-language edition, added Indian and Arabic editions, and is planning to expand into Southeast Asia and China.
In his academic career, Glick has completed a progression of administrative appointments—from division director at Penn to department chair at UMDNJ to associate dean at A.T. Still and, finally, to dean at UB.
He says he sought the UB job because he wants to be in a position in dental education where he can make a change. “A deanship gives me that opportunity,” he explains. “It’s an honor to be a dean. A lot of people put a lot of trust in me and depend on me—not only for day-to-day matters, but also, hopefully, for where we want to go as a profession, especially in dental education.”
He believes dental education is at the crossroads, pointing to the number of new dental schools and the lack of sufficient academic faculty to go around. “We need to strengthen the strategic plan for dental education,” he says, adding that dental educators need to figure out how to sustain academic excellence in dental education.
New York’s—and consequently SUNY’s—current fiscal woes have not daunted his optimism. “I think every school has the same problems, more or less; it’s just a matter of degree. It’s a tough financial time for everyone right now, not just in academia. You have to deal with it, you have to be innovative.”
There is another demonstration of Glick’s tenacity on the public record. He took up sculling on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia a decade ago as a way to keep company with a high-school-age son who was learning the sport. In 2005, Glick the father won the U.S. national masters lightweight single scull championship.
No matter what he does, he aims high.