Accreditation, Engagement and Looking Ahead

Mark Kirkland

Mark Kirkland, DDS

Interim Dean Mark Kirkland's monthly column:

One thing that’s been on my mind, and I’m sure this is true for many others, is accreditation. April 2019 will be here before you know it. As you probably know, we had a mock site visit in January. What we’ve learned: The vast majority of what we do, we do very well. But we do have a little bit of work to do.

I’ve been through these site visits before: We ask evaluators to come in, look at us with a critical eye, and give us feedback. Now, we need to make sure that everybody is moving in the same direction: students, staff, faculty.

We’re starting with a series of town halls — the first of which was in January, and will continue over the coming year — to let everyone in the school know about the findings, and how they can help in this process.

Every person in the School of Dentistry community needs to be engaged in this. One way we’re going about it: In UCSF Dental Center, Maria Guerra, Chris Cadwell and others are hosting a number of staff meetings to foster engagement. Patient experience and patient satisfaction are big parts of accreditation; when we talk about enhancing patient experience, staff are a big part of that.

Let me focus on that patient experience for a bit. One of the things I’d like to make sure we as a health care community do is focus on our patients. There are little things we can do that add up. Making sure we communicate not just with a student or trainee, but the patient in the chair. Making sure we make eye contact. If we see someone in the building who looks confused or lost, asking if one can help with directions. If we see something dropped on the floor, picking it up and throwing it away. These little things can make a big difference. I’d like to see these become part of our culture here.

We also should focus on how we interact with one another. We’re all essentially clients of one another; we should treat each other accordingly. We all work here, we want it to be an enjoyable place to work. Larisa Kure, associate dean for administration and finance, has been a great staff advocate; she has spearheaded many initiatives to ensure that people feel valued here. It’s important that we have a good working environment and climate; Dr. George Taylor, associate dean for diversity and inclusion, has taken the lead on this, notably with the school climate survey that launches later this month. Let me say here how important it is for the entire school community to take part in this survey — make your voice heard! We’re all part of this organization. Why are we here? Look at our tagline: excellence in patient care, education, and discovery. It takes everyone moving in one direction to make these things happen.

As we move in that direction, it’s good to know we have a really good operation in place. Talented people have been put in key positions, our programs are strong and robust, we have a comprehensive strategic plan — a roadmap for how to do things. We have three big initiatives seizing our immediate attention: accreditation, curriculum reform and UCSF Dental Center. These are initiatives that cannot be put on hold until a permanent dean comes on board. How I see my job as interim dean: I don’t intend to just keep the seat warm. Whether I’m in this position for six months, or shorter, or a longer period of time — I’ve got a job to do and will do it to the best of my ability. I’ll be making the necessary decisions.

I’ve been here long enough to see deans, department chairs, chancellors come and go. But UCSF remains. It would be terrible if our entire operation hinged upon one or two people. That means we’ve done something wrong. If we’ve done our jobs properly, then we’re planning for succession, identifying key people in the pipeline, doing a good job with recruitment. This enterprise will continue, irrespective of who leaves. I’m confident things are going to be fine.

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