New York State Approves Joint Dental-Engineering Degree Program

The joint DDS/PhD program will welcome its inaugural cohort in the fall of 2024

Feb 27 2024 | Photo Credit: College of Dental Medicine, Columbia University
Partitions separate three dental students delivering treatment to patients.

The Center for Precision Dental Medicine, a teaching clinic at Columbia's College of Dental Medicine (CDM). Credit: College of Dental Medicine, Columbia University

Columbia Engineering and Columbia University College of Dental Medicine (CDM) have received approval from the New York State Department of Education to offer a newly created joint DDS/PhD program in dental biomedical engineering. The program aims to advance translational research, education, and patient care in oral health. The schools will welcome the inaugural cohort this fall. 

The program — the Dental-Biomedical Engineering Scholars Training program (D-BEST) — will leverage both the world-class doctoral research conducted at Columbia Engineering’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and the cutting-edge clinical training integral to CDM’s curriculum. The new interdisciplinary program will prepare students to become innovative leaders with expertise rooted in engineering and the dental sciences. 

“The program consists of continuous biomedical engineering research and dental experiences throughout the eight-year DDS-PhD program,” said Roseanna Graham, interim dean of CDM. “We will guide the scholar at every stage of training, including grant application preparation and post-program opportunities.” 

“We are thrilled to build on our longstanding collaboration with Columbia’s College of Dental Medicine to offer this unique program to students,” said Shih-Fu Chang, Dean of Columbia Engineering. “Training a new generation of talented dental scientists will have a significant impact on the profession and expand opportunities for students while resulting in better dental care for patients.”

The D-BEST program was co-developed by Sunil Wadhwa, Leuman M. Waugh Associate Professor and chair of the Department of Growth and Development at CDM, and Helen Lu, Percy K. and Vida L. W. Hudson Professor of Biomedical Engineering and professor of dental and craniofacial engineering (in Dental Sciences). Wadhwa and Lu will jointly direct the program.

The program aims to address the need right now for dentists equipped with expertise in translational research.

“The negative impact of oral health diseases has not improved in the past 30 years,” said Wadhwa. “We need more dental scientists who can adapt and translate basic science findings into dental health care applications.”

Lu noted that the new program will enable novel approaches for treating and understanding oral diseases. “With a program such as this, we are meeting a real need for education and research that can lead to breakthroughs in the practice of dentistry,” she said. “An education program that combines the latest technologies and scientific findings will equip the next generation of practitioners to be true pioneers in dental medicine.”

The new program’s first cohort will include a select group of Columbia dental students. Going forward, candidates for the program will have undergraduate degrees in engineering and the necessary prerequisites to enter the DDS program. Similar to the MD/PhD program at Columbia, these dual-degree trainees will earn both a DDS and PhD and be equipped with core expertise rooted in both engineering and dental sciences.

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