5 Questions With ... Dr. Robert M. Trombly

Robert M. Trombly, D.D.S., J.D.
Professor and Dean
A.T. Still University
Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health

1. In 10 years, the biggest change about dental education (or dentistry) will be …

The integration of oral health with the primary care health care system, broadening the scope of practice of dentists, expanding preventive oral health training for other primary care providers and the development of collaborative practice models in a value-based reimbursement system. This will improve both access to oral health care and the management of chronic systemic conditions. Our challenge in dental education is to ensure that our graduates have the skills necessary to not only thrive in this new model, but also to be a part of the solution to help create this new model for the health of the communities we serve.

2.  How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed dental education?

It might be easier to try to identify what hasn’t changed, but here are a few, most of which will be long-term changes:

  • Virtual classrooms and remote learning;
  • Virtual clinic sessions;
  • Improved health and safety protocols;
  • New efficient patient-centered clinical care, including four-handed dentistry, student “runners” and quadrant dentistry;
  • New applications of teledentistry;
  • Expansion of clinical simulated assessments, including use in clinical licensure exams;
  • New openness to develop shared curriculum;
  • Flexibility in CODA standards;
  • Expanded scope of practice;
  • Dentist as an essential provider;
  • Exploration of asynchronous competency-based curriculum; and
  • Just maybe, a pathway to control the cost of dental education.

3. What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?

I’m a bit of a sports addict, from working high school summers as an assistant tennis pro in local clubs to playing every intramural sport in college at Ann Arbor (and somehow still getting into dental school) to coaching my six children every weekend with multiple competitive club teams (soccer, basketball, fast-pitch softball and volleyball).

4. What’s the ultimate comfort meal for you?

As a Detroit native, I have to go with Buddy’s Pizza and a side of antipasto salad (original location on Conant Street in Hamtramck), with a close second to Bucharest Grill’s Chicken Shawarma. If you visit Detroit, check them out.

5. What’s something you think you’ll never understand?

How our health care system became so fragmented and why it’s taking so darn long to for our society to figure out the impacts of oral health, mental health and social determinants of health on our overall health.