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Eastman Institute for Oral Health / About Us / Message from the Director

A Message from Dr. Eli Eliav

Dr. Eli Eliav

The COVID-19 pandemic, and other major events throughout 2020 will always be remembered as a significant part of history.

At the onset, we were a bit surprised that a pandemic was occurring in the United States in the 21st century. Suddenly there was so much to think about, react to, and plan for. Reflection over the last year reminds us that history repeats itself. George Eastman opened the Rochester Dental Dispensary in 1917 to help those facing barriers to dental care. We learned that the Dispensary stayed open to serve the community when the Flu pandemic hit the area in the fall of 1918.

Ever since then, serving the community and improving access to care is exactly what we’ve been doing, and this pandemic was no exception. Treating patients with infectious diseases is nothing new for oral health care providers. But with Covid-19, there was so much we didn’t know early on. The initial trepidation and uncertainty didn’t weaken the commitment and dedication of our staff, residents and faculty, who hit the ground running.

We worked closely together, and with URMC leadership to continue doing what we’ve always been leaders in: Treating patients. Educating. Gathering scientific evidence. Innovating. Breaking barriers.

The Howitt Urgent Dental Care team triaged 80-100 patients a day, who traveled from 48 surrounding counties because care was unavailable elsewhere. Staying compliant with physical distancing, every EIOH department helped treat these emergency patients throughout the building during the shutdown. This was critical to help keep dental emergencies away from the hospital EDs. We quickly transitioned to online education. Dr. Yanfang Ren worked with many to gather compelling evidence that provided sound solutions for patient and provider safety.

We organized and hosted a widely attended International Forum, where oral health leaders around the world gathered in real time to learn from each others' unique experiences and to discuss ways to safely treat patients and engage in meaningful research. Some 1800 people from around the world tuned in to learn from experts in five countries.

We were onsite daily to efficiently and swiftly address the numerous challenges of clinic operations.  For optimal patient care, we established a Teledentistry Division, and developed our own Dental Assistant Training Program. Despite the daily challenges, we continued to advance initiatives in other areas.

We’re delighted to share that we’re expanding our partners to include an Institute near and dear to George Eastman, who gave $200,000 in 1929 to build and equip a Dental Department at Meharry Medical College. Thanks for the wonderful support of the EDC Foundation Board, the individuals and corporations who support us financially, our friends at home and abroad who donated PPE when supplies were low.

I’ve never been more proud to work alongside such a group of dedicated, talented professionals as I have at EIOH and URMC. Together, thanks to the teamwork and leadership throughout Eastman Institute for Oral Health and the University of Rochester Medical Center, we continue to be ever better.

Dr. Eliav signature
Eli Eliav, DMD, MSc, PhD
Professor & Director, EIOH
Vice Dean for Oral Health, School of Medicine & Dentistry
Vice President for Oral Health
University of Rochester Medical Center