A Conversation With . . .

Jerold S. Goldberg,
Dean of the School of Dental Medicine

photo: Annie O'Neill Jerold Goldberg

Jerold "Jerry" Goldberg came to Case Western Reserve as a dental student in 1966 and, other than a one-year internship in New Jersey, never left. Goldberg returned from his internship to join the faculty in 1974 and became dean in 1997. Over nearly 18 years, Goldberg has increased students' clinical opportunities and community engagement, grown the school's research portfolio, and served as interim dean of the School of Medicine and interim provost. Next month, he steps down as dean to return to the faculty and focus on fundraising for major school initiatives.

QIn 2000, the dental school was among the first to introduce a "white coat" ceremony in which entering students take an oath to put patients' needs ahead of their own. Why, as dean, was it important to you to add this event?

A One of the first things that happens in our dental school, which is very different, is that after our students are here for a few months, they go into the Cleveland school system and take care of underserved kids. So we're saying: Here's your white coat, you have an ethical responsibility, a societal responsibility to take care of people who are less fortunate, and we're going to have you do that as soon as you possibly can.

QYou've obviously left your imprint here. What are you most proud of?

A I'm proud of our ethics and professionalism, community service, community responsibility. I'm proud of our research growth, which has been exponential in areas that are really important and impactful. Dentistry is largely an infectious disease profession. So when we decided to build a research enterprise, we thought it should be around infectious disease. But, as you know, science takes you where science takes you. We thought people could come here and study gum disease, and now they're doing research in AIDS, in cancer, in low-birthweight babies and health-care disparities. I'm most proud that we are populating our profession with really smart, capable, kind and compassionate health-care providers.

QDo you think dentistry doesn't get the credit it deserves as a health-care profession?

A A friend of mine said dentistry is like always playing an away game. You never get to play at home. With increasing evidence of the importance of oral health in general health, the profession is becoming more and more appreciated. However, I really feel dentists have a huge opportunity to be of even greater value to society. Our students learn an incredible amount of basic science. But the way dentistry is practiced, for the most part, they get little opportunity to apply all that knowledge. If we just enhance that education a little bit to where they're used to applying that knowledge and feeling a responsibility to be more involved in their patients' general health, then I think dentists could play a role in the early identification of disease, prevention and behavior modification.

QCraniofacial work has always been an interest of yours, and particularly children with deformities. Can you explain where that comes from?

A One of the areas I found particularly gratifying is [helping] children who are born with congenital facial deformities. In a very dramatic way, you get this immediate gratification. When you deal with a child, it's not just the child—it's the caregiver, it's how other kids respond to that child—and so it has huge impact.

QHave any of your former patients or the parents of former patients kept in touch?

A There was one kid who, when I saw him the first time, was probably 7 or 8 years old. We put some hipbones in his jaw.We moved his whole upper jaw and the middle of his face forward. We probably did about three or four operations. He was graduating from high school, and the only thing that was left [to fix] was one side of his nose that was a little asymmetrical. So I said to him: "You and I have been through a lot. When you get your nose fixed there, you'll be done." And he looked at me, he said: "Dr. Goldberg, I'm graduating from high school, I'm going to Notre Dame, I have a football scholarship, and I'm dating the best-looking girl in school. Why exactly do I have to get my nose done?" And I said: "You know something? Silly me, I guess you don't!"—Bill Lubinger

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