By Sara Sanchez – Courtesy of El Paso Inc.
For some, rows upon rows of bodiless mannequin heads with full mouths of realistic-looking teeth might prompt nightmares.
But for Dr. Fady Faddoul, those dummies represent an opportunity for hundreds of hours of practice for dental school students who will hone their skills at the high-tech clinic before working in the community.
Faddoul, 59, is the new associate dean for clinical affairs at the Woody L. Hunt School of Dental Medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso.
He arrived in the borderland via Cleveland, Ohio, nearly two months ago, after spending about 30 years working at Case Western Reserve University.
In the past month, Faddoul has spent time getting to know the El Paso and Texas Tech community better. He’s also done some exploring around the city, and he and his wife are in the process of finding a house.
Faddoul is originally from Lebanon and came to the United States in 1980. He studied dentistry at John Carroll University in Cleveland and received his master’s degree from Case Western.
Before coming to El Paso’s new dental school, Faddoul was chairman of the department of comprehensive care at Case Western.
When the dental school opens in July, it will be the first to open in Texas in nearly 50 years and the first in West Texas. The school is expected to start with 40 students and more than 20 faculty members at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso in South-Central El Paso.
It includes a 38,000-square-foot clinic that is equipped with 130 treatment chairs, and those bodiless mannequin heads, where students will provide oral health care to the El Paso community under the supervision of faculty.
Faddoul spent time last week with El Paso Inc. on campus to talk about his first month on the job, changes in dentistry and getting through his first (and hopefully rare) El Paso winter storm.
Q: You’ve been in El Paso for a short time now. How’s it going?
I’m relatively new here. I’d been in Cleveland for 40 years. When I came for the interview, it was my first time visiting El Paso. My wife and I came, and she and I loved it. It’s different, a little warmer – I don’t know about warmer, in the last week.
I’m getting acclimated to the area. So far it’s great. I’ve been here a month and a half. I started on Jan. 4, and have been here since Jan. 3.
Q: What did you do in Cleveland?
I was at Case Western Reserve University for about 30 years. In my last position there, I was the chairman of the department of comprehensive care, the largest department in the school, and director of faculty practice.
That was one of the most attractive parts about (Texas Tech): their public health and community involvement. I was very much involved with that in Cleveland, and I think that giving back to the community and being part of the community is great.
When I was talking to (Dr. Richard Black, dean of the dental school) and (Dr. Wendy Woodall, associate academic dean), that was one of the things they talked about.
Q: What will some of your duties be as associate dean of clinical affairs, and what’s your vision for the dental school?
Part of my job is to put together the clinical curriculum for the school, working with Dr. Woodall. We work to put both the clinical and didactic curriculum together.
My job is to supervise the clinical requirements, make sure the clinics are operating properly, the budget for the clinic. Everything clinical is going to be within my job description, making sure that all the rules and regulations and policies are adhered to, getting the students out into the community when the time comes.
Being a liaison between the school, the community and the dental profession is how I see my role.
Q: How’s it been over the past month getting to know El Paso and Texas Tech?
It’s really been wonderful. Everybody has been extremely welcoming and helpful. It’s been a wonderful experience so far and has been very busy. I haven’t had a chance yet to get into the community as much as I want to and need to, but I’m working with Dr. Black on getting out a little bit more, and learning about different things available, and getting the word out about our new school.
It’s been a long time coming and finally it’s here. I think there’s a great need in the community for our school. I’m looking forward to being part of it.
Q: What have you learned about what oral health issues El Pasoans face?
There’s a general shortage of dentists that, hopefully, the school will be able to fill. I’m still learning, so if you ask me in a couple of months I can give better answers. But there’s definitely a need for oral health in the community.
Hopefully, we can provide some education and community outreach and awareness that would make people think more about dental health. The association between oral and systemic health, they’re not separate. Oral health definitely has a direct effect on someone’s general health, especially someone who’s elderly. The ability to chew and digest starts in the mouth.
It’s not a separate entity and is a part of the whole body and the whole system.
Q: How was the process of coming to El Paso impacted by everything pandemic-related?
It’s been a process. It’s affected all of us. Thank God for technology today. We were able to do Zoom meetings. I think if we take proper precautions, I wasn’t too concerned with the travel, because you have to continue to live.
I traveled here and had a wonderful experience. For me, COVID was not a deterrent.
Q: Does the clinical curriculum change every year, and will it be subject to new rules and guidelines surrounding COVID-19?
The clinical curriculum is usually set. Our school here is all about technology. But as far as COVID, we do have to adapt based on today’s circumstances. There will be new processes and procedures to follow in the clinic. Not so much in the learning how to do dentistry, but in the delivery of dental care.
We have to make sure we’re following federal, state and local guidelines for infection control. Those are the things that are changing even more than the curriculum itself. We will have to incorporate all those precautions into the curriculum as we teach students not only how to do dentistry but how to deliver dental care to patients in a safe manner.
Q: Do you participate in recruiting or getting students interested in the dental school?
They have a system that I’m learning, but I don’t think they’ve had any problems recruiting students.
Student Affairs is doing a wonderful job of recruiting students, and we would love to have students from here stay here and provide those services that are needed here.
I’m sure there will not be an issue recruiting students, especially with the vision that Dr. Black and Dr. Woodall have set for the school. I think it’s going to be a very exciting program.
Q: Where did you go to school?
I came from Lebanon in 1980 and went to John Carroll University in Cleveland. From John Carroll, I went to Case Western Reserve University and graduated from Case in 1988.
Then I did a two-year residency in general practice and did a master’s in oral medicine. I stayed at Case as faculty and rose through the ranks.
I lived in Cleveland with my wife and two boys, and both boys are in dental school now. It’s a family of dentists.
Q: How has dentistry changed over the course of your career?
Dentistry has evolved quite a bit over the years. The focus is now on prevention, more than treatment. We want to provide education, and we want to prevent disease rather than having to treat it. I think we’ve come a long way in that sense.
Dentistry has also evolved in technology. The technology available today is making dentistry way more efficient, and that’s the idea here in this school – for us to be able to get our students involved in clinical activities early and be efficient and to learn the technology available to us today.
The biggest jump is from treating disease to preventing disease.
It’s been established that there’s a direct link between oral and systemic health. You can talk about heart disease, diabetes, all different kinds of systemic diseases that are manifested in the oral cavity.
Q: Have you found any good spots in El Paso to enjoy?
My wife has found them for me from Cleveland. She’d search, and then call me and say go to this or that place. She found some very neat Middle Eastern places where I can get pita bread, for example.
She loves Mexican food, so when she was here we found some great places. It’s been wonderful, and it’s a nice community that’s very welcoming and friendly. I’ve had a great time so far.
Even everyone here has been very helpful in giving me directions. Dr. Black took me around and showed me around the whole area.
The only bad thing is that I’m being blamed for the cold wave we got. They said we never had this until you came and brought it with you from Cleveland. So it’s my fault. And I was in Cleveland when you got it.
Q: How’s your experience finding a house in El Paso right now?
I haven’t found a house yet. My wife has been working with someone who is showing her around. She’s still in Cleveland and is finishing up there. The house is her responsibility, and I just live with her.
She looks on the internet, she finds things and has me go look. I put her on FaceTime and show her around. But we’re waiting for her to come and take a look when she finds something she likes.
There are a lot of very nice areas. It reminds me of Lebanon because you have a lot of mountains.