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Joseph E. Gambacorta

Published October 25, 2012

Joseph E. Gambacorta is assistant dean for clinical affairs in the School of Dental Medicine.

You were appointed assistant dean for clinical affairs in June. What was your position before and how is this current appointment different?

JG: I have been a clinical instructor in restorative dentistry in the UB dental clinics for 10 years. In that role, I supervised student-administered patient care and worked with my students on how to interact with patients, how to be professionals. As assistant dean, I will oversee the function of the clinics—every aspect—as well as the course/curriculum direction for the clinics. And I will continue to teach. I’m also the faculty advisor for Buffalo Outreach and Community Assistance (BOCA).

What makes the UB dental clinics so special?

JG: At last count, the dental school provides a “dental home” to 150,000 patients annually—many of them children (this includes off-site clinics). This makes us the largest provider of dental care in Western New York. The clinics at the dental school provide the community a resource for research, diagnosis and treatment of dental conditions for every member of the family. The dental school operates clinics Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., along with several community outreach projects throughout the year.

We are also committed to prevention and therefore provide a vital resource in the education of children on the importance of good dental health.

We host the very successful “Give Kids a Smile Day” event that brings school children to our clinics for treatment and education. We also offer a free prophy day—dental prophylaxis or prevention—to allow the community to visit and experience our UB dental clinics, to receive a free cleaning and examination, and possibly become patients.

The UB dental clinics and dental school also carry out several domestic and international outreach missions.

What is restorative dentistry?

JG: Restorative dentistry focuses on the preservation and restoration of decayed, defective, missing and traumatized teeth. We are the dentists most people see for their biannual visits and/or when they have to have a tooth filled or extracted or replaced with dentures or partials.

Why do you teach restorative dentistry?

JG: Because it’s the backbone of dentistry—it encompasses every specialty—we can do everything; we’re not limited.

Where did you get your undergraduate and dental degrees?

JG: I’m UB all the way: I got my undergrad degree here in biological sciences in 1989 and my UB DDS in 1993.

You could have gone anywhere but you stayed here. Why?

JG: Western New York is my home. I grew up in North Buffalo. It’s a great place to raise a family—you get to live in a neighborhood, not an apartment complex. But you can also have the city life of arts, culture and major league sports. I love the diversity of people and neighborhoods as well.

What do you like best about Western New York?

JG: Options! Cost of living, family-friendly. People don’t realize how blessed we are to have so many health care possibilities. Then there is the influence of UB: so much research and so many opportunities. Change of seasons. I could go on and on.

What is a typical day like for you?

JG: Well, during the summer there are many conversations, meetings and planning sessions about putting forth the best effort for the upcoming semester in the clinics—policymaking and decision-making. Now that the semester has begun and the students are back, I interact with faculty and students on how the clinic is running.

Do you like working with students?

JG: I love working with students. It’s the best thing. It encourages you to pay attention to what you do and how you do it because you are modeling professional behavior for them. Your conduct influences them. It’s a huge responsibility that I take very seriously. Students keep you engaged and computer savvy—and interacting with them keeps you young.

Do you have a vision for the dental clinics?

JG: To have students and patients benefit equally. To remove roadblocks to treatment. To streamline treatment delivery.

The essential mission/vision of the UB dental school is excellence in all you do. How does this apply to the clinics?

JG: We will strive for the highest standard of dental care and patient treatment. Working in the clinics, as well as working as an administrator, allows me to constantly assess whether we are achieving our objectives. We have dedicated ourselves, as faculty, to giving students the best possible experience.

What would your students be surprised to find out about you?

JG: I am the founder and president of the Buffalo Hockey Experience Museum. It is a fully-chartered 501C3 by the federal government and is dedicated to preserving the history of professional hockey in Buffalo and Southern Ontario.

Why Buffalo Sabres hockey?

JG: Going to Sabres games with my dad was a highlight of my childhood. I always enjoyed the history of the team and collecting items related to the team’s history. As I became more interested, I started to collect all sorts of items, especially ticket stubs, programs, photos and any novelty item sold at the Aud. I think the Aud played a huge role in my love of the Sabres. Currently, I have the pleasure of displaying items that help younger fans understand the extensive and great history of their team.

What would you like your legacy to be?

JG: I would like to be remembered as someone who really cared, who took the time to make things better and did whatever it took to make it better for everyone.

What words of wisdom do you give to the students you work with in the BOCA outreach program?

JG: The best dentistry is the dentistry that you don’t get paid for.