History of the College
Columbia University began as King’s College, which was founded in 1754 by royal grant of George II,
king of England, ―for the Instruction of Youth in the Learned Languages, and the Liberal Arts and
Sciences.‖ The American Revolution interrupted its program, but in 1784 it was reopened as Columbia
College.In 1912 the title was changed to Columbia University in the City of New York. King’s College
organized a medical faculty (College of Physicians and Surgeons) in 1767 and was the first institution in
the North American Colonies to confer the degree of Doctor of Medicine.
The College of Dental Medicine traces its origin to 1852, when the New York State legislature chartered
the New York College of Dentistry, later renamed the New York College of Dental and Oral Surgery. In
1916 Columbia University, having recognized dentistry as an integral and important part of the health
sciences and a true university discipline, established its own school of dental education. Shortly thereafter,
the new Columbia University dental school absorbed both the New York Post-graduate School of Dentistry
and the New York School of Dental Hygiene. In 1923 it was joined by the New York College of Dental and
Oral Surgery to form the School of Dental and Oral Surgery of Columbia University, thus completing a
series of unique and complex mergers.
In January 2006 the School of Dental and Oral Surgery was renamed the College of Dental Medicine.
The institution has remained a leading force in dental education and research ever since its establishment.
In the early 1920s Professor William J. Gies of the Columbia Biochemistry Department established the
International Association for Dental Research, the first organization devoted exclusively to research in the
field of dentistry. In 1926 Professor Gies prepared the report Dental Education in the United States and
Canada for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. This was a major critique of dental
education in the United States, and its publication resulted in the acceptance by dental schools throughout
the country of the basic educational policies and objectives developed at Columbia University.
The Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center was opened in the spring of 1928 at its present location, after
the establishment of a permanent alliance between Columbia University with its College of Physicians and
Surgeons, School of Dental and Oral Surgery, School of Public Health, and School of Nursing; the
Presbyterian Hospital and its subdivisions; the New York State Psychiatric Institute; and the Washington
Heights HealthTeaching Center.
DENTISTRY: PRESENT AND FUTURE
Today, the role of the dentist goes far beyond the old perception of someone you visit just when you need a
cavity filled. Increasingly, dental research and clinical care have shown that oral health is central to
patients’ total health. The College of Dental Medicine has a strong biomedical focus, which is reflected
not only in its curriculum, but also in its close work with other disciplines in the medical field. Dental
faculty and students work side by side with colleagues from a wide range of disciplines at Columbia
University Medical Center and around the world, and are tackling oral health issues from clinical, research,
and public policy approaches.
Through advances in research and through the evolution of newer modes of practice, the field of dentistry
has developed the capacity to deliver quality dental care to large numbers of individuals. A yet unsolved
problem is how to devise ways of using this great capacity to provide care at a reasonable cost to a greater
proportion of our population, including those who do not now have adequate and easy access to dental care
because of poverty or special problems such as handicaps, age infirmities, or remoteness of location.
Just as the practice of dentistry is undergoing considerable change, dental education similarly faces a
number of challenges for the future. The College of Dental Medicine is responding to these challenges
through the development of new instructional programs that emphasize the importance of medical
preparation and that offer the student flexibility in educational options. A necessary mission of the College
is to prepare dental students to face a professional future in which many changes may be anticipated.
Students completing the D.D.S. degree within the next years will enter a professional world in which
traditional health care systems and the old values are still strong. They must be able to function
successfully and contribute to some existing career role in that world, but it is equally important for today’s
students to recognize that during their active professional life span of approximately forty years, the healthcare
system, including dentistry, will change substantially. Changes in the economics of dental health care
may also be expected from scientific research aimed at reducing the prevalence of dental caries and other
dental diseases. The need for well-trained dentists in this country will remain strong, however, as the
growing population of elderly persons in the United States who require care will place a new set of
demands on the dental care delivery system. It is clear that future graduates in dentistry must be provided
with an education that will permit them to adapt to a changing way of life and a changing demography. The
new dentist must have the commitment, the capacity, and the ability to continue to learn during a long and
constantly changing professional lifetime. These are attitudes and skills that must be fostered in the dental educational process.
THE STUDY OF DENTISTRY IN NEW YORK CITY
New York City offers an extremely advantageous setting for the study of dentistry. Many of the most
talented dental professionals of the nation and of the world maintain practices in New York City, and there
are opportunities for students to visit private offices, clinics, and hospital dental services located throughout
the city. In addition, the professional dental resources of the city provide students with exposure to leading
authorities in every field of dentistry, many of whom serve on the Faculty of the College.
At the same time, Columbia students have opportunities for an unusually wide choice of cultural and
artistic activities for which New York City is well known. Museums, theatres, opera houses, concert halls,
and cinemas provide almost unlimited entertainment possibilities. For those interested in pursuing
educational courses in addition to dentistry, Columbia University and numerous other academic centers in
the city offer many opportunities for extracurricular learning.
THE MISSION OF COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF DENTAL MEDICINE
Columbia University College of Dental Medicine (CDM) was established in 1916, and has been known for
most of its history as the School of Dental and Oral Surgery. Located on the University’s Medical Center
Campus since it opened in 1928, the College links its research and teaching programs to the vast resources
of the University in general and the Medical Center in particular. The College seeks to attract a diverse
faculty and student body, to foster a supportive and intellectually challenging academic environment, and is
committed to improving the oral health of vulnerable populations. In harmony with the mission of
Columbia University, CDM is developing an international program in education and service.
The College’s mission has evolved into a tripartite commitment to education, patient care, and research to
train general dentists, dental specialists, and future dental faculty in a setting that emphasizes a
close linkage to medical sciences and comprehensive dental care delivery in an environment that
stimulates professional growth; provide comprehensive dental care for the underserved community of northern Manhattan, and to
develop focused international oral health care programs; and, inspire, support, and promote faculty, student, and resident participation in research to advance the knowledge base in dental medicine.
The curriculum strives to prepare graduates who, in addition to becoming competent general dentists and
dental specialists, are able to provide comprehensive care to all, including medically complex patients, and
are prepared to function as integral members of a health care team. This is achieved by virtue of a strong
foundation in the biomedical sciences as well as a curricular emphasis on the social, economic, and ethical
aspects of the profession. The College is committed to providing its students with a rich and diverse clinical
education experience, by improving the oral health of and bringing clinical services to underserved and
minority patients of northern Manhattan. CDM provides an academic environment that encourages
students to take advantage of the educational opportunities that the University offers in such diverse areas
as public health, informatics, and biomedical research, thereby enriching the education of those who will
enter the practice of dentistry and the dental specialties.The education goals of the College of Dental Medicine are to
prepare students to become competent in general dentistry;
prepare students for careers in dentistry with a strong emphasis in the biomedical sciences;
prepare students with an understanding of the social, economic, and ethical aspects of the
profession, as well as the historical foundations of dentistry; and
support and strengthen advanced dental education programs in general dentistry, the dental
specialties, and the dental sciences.
Research is the mechanism by which we expand our existing knowledge base. Dentistry has always been,
and continues to be, an evolving health care discipline whose foundations are based on research. CDM is
committed to inspire and support future dental educators who are committed to research as part of their
professional lives; to foster and promote faculty, pre- and postdoctoral student, and hospital resident
participation in research; and to train students and residents in research methodology. This training will
allow the future generations of practitioners to interpret new research findings in the literature and, when
possible, to incorporate this information into the clinical practice of dentistry.
The research goals of the College of Dental Medicine are to
encourage and support all forms of academic research;promote collaborative research activities between faculty at the College and faculty in the Health Sciences and the University; promote pre- and postdoctoral students’ research training; and develop dental educators committed to research as part of their professional lives.
Patient Care Goals
The College is the largest primary and specialty oral health care provider in the northern Manhattan
communities of Harlem and Washington Heights/Inwood. Both communities have been designated dental
health professional manpower shortage areas by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Bureau of
Primary Care. Patient care is a primary College mission and the College strives to meet the needs of these
The patient care goals of the College of Dental Medicine are to
view patient care as a primary College commitment and todeliver comprehensive and quality care
while providing a rich, diverse clinical education experience to students; and
bring clinical services to a wide range of underserved and minority patients in northern Manhattan.