A January 2021 update from Dean Sarandeep Huja

Sarandeep Huja
January 21, 2021
Dean Huja

CDM alumni and friends,

As we move into 2021, it is impossible to ignore the challenges of 2020, a year forever etched in our memories. But I have seen you overcome adversity and constant uncertainty, and now realize how truly resilient you are. I have been humbled and amazed by the constant dedication and strength portrayed by each member of the dental community.

Let us look back on 2020 at the MUSC James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine. On Feb. 10, our graduate periodontics residents traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina, for the Southern Academy of Periodontology (SAP) 2020 Winter Seminar. They spent two days networking and learning how to better their field. Meanwhile, our DMD students were participating in community service and each of us were in the offices making a difference.

Come March, all our lives changed. Many of us started to work and study from home. Many dental care professionals were faced with immense hardships, a pay cut or worse, a loss of a job. Due to the unwavering support of the university, the James B. Edwards College Dental Medicine was able to support its employees. The past year brought a great deal of death, misery and simultaneous racial injustice. Though it’s hard to imagine, I constantly look to and talk about the positive and remarkable stories that emerged from the pandemic. They are not to be ignored. While we are not at the end of the pandemic, I remain ever hopeful with your support.

As each of you have heard, the COVID-19 vaccine has officially been released and is being administered within many health care facilities, including MUSC. On Tuesday, Dec. 15, MUSC Health received its first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine and began vaccinations for care team workers that same day. By Dec. 21, MUSC Health had vaccinated almost 5,000 health care workers, staff and students. Currently, MUSC is vaccinating health care workers, first responders and people age 70 and older. We are hopeful that with this vaccine we are getting closer to ending this very tough chapter in our world’s history book.

Even during the pandemic, we, as a college, university and enterprise, continue to forge forward. I have shared with you previously that we have begun the process of planning a new four-chair dental clinic within the MUSC West Ashley Medical Pavilion, which should open by the end of this year. Formerly known as Citadel Mall, it is a new primary care facility that offers comprehensive health services including ambulatory surgeries. Similarly, we have entered a professional services agreement to staff a Roper Ryan White clinic in West Ashley. MUSC Health values oral health in improving systemic health. They also value us as partners and are significantly invested in creating a new model of wellness through oral health.

Throughout the pandemic, our focus has been on our students, first DMD 2020 and now DMD 2021 and beyond. It’s gratifying to know how hard our faculty have worked to provide educational opportunities for our students. As many of you may be aware, clinical test administration agencies began offering manikin-based licensing examinations for dental students as an alternative to patient-based examinations. I applaud the courage and empathy of the state dental board. We continue to plan for white coat and hooding ceremonies with safety in mind. It is also exciting for me to announce that our tuition rates have not been raised in four consecutive years, which is accomplished via your help with scholarships. I am in constant awe of our students. As one student recently pointed out to me, the pandemic has taught her to be better prepared and more adaptable.

In spite of the pandemic, we have formulated a new path for the next five years, which is articulated by our succinct and appropriately ambitious strategic plan. After a year and a half of work from the strategic planning committee, with diverse input, including from our alumni, we now have a new mission, vision and values with three focus areas: lead, inspire, innovate. For the next five years, CDM’s mission is “to develop transformative leaders and oral health providers to improve wellness. Our commitment to education, research and patient care will be driven by collaborative and entrepreneurial approach that will result in global impact on the profession.” This mission is what will continuously drive us each day moving forward, along with our vision “to innovate the future of oral health and wellness” and our MUSC action values of compassion, respect, innovation, collaboration and integrity. All three aspects of our strategic strategy nicely dovetail with the new OneMUSC strategy, which encompasses innovation, impact and influence. The OneMUSC is an umbrella strategy for the university that serves as the compass for the College of Dental Medicine’s plan.You will hear me highlight and discuss our strategic plan as we will focus our resources toward our strategic intents.

I am proud to be at MUSC. Why? It’s simple. Their pandemic response, testing and personal protective equipment (PPE) availability, empathy toward employees and finally their leading role in advocating for everyone during the vaccine roll out. As we move forward, I too remain optimistic about our future. A future that is full of teamwork, innovation, collaboration, empathy, respect and so much more. I thank each of you for your continued support and I look forward to hearing what will no doubt be outstanding accomplishments in 2021.


Sarandeep Huja
Dean, James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine