Nadeem Karimbux replaces Huw Thomas as dean of dental school

The Tufts Dental School Building pictured on Aug. 7, 2012. Today2 via Wikimedia Commons

University President Anthony Monaco announced Nadeem Karimbux, who has served as associate dean of academic affairs and a professor in the periodontology department, will serve as the new dean of Tufts University School of Dental Medicine (TUSDM). According to the May 16 email, Karimbux’s deanship began on July 1.

Born in Kenya and of Indian descent, Karimbux said in a phone interview with the Daily that he first came to Massachusetts in 1982 to study at University of Massachusetts-Amherst. From there, he graduated from Harvard School of Dental Medicine, specializing in periodontology and serving as academic faculty at Harvard University.

Karimbux said that working at a small dental school like Harvard led him to want to work at a larger school like TUSDM. He said he moved to Tufts as associate dean of academic affairs in 2012, attracted by TUDSM’s global reputation and location.

Karimbux described his time as associate dean as conducive to his taking a higher role, saying he got to work with both Doctor of Dental Medicine students (DMDs) and advanced specializing students.

“With that administrative experience of working within those two different areas and being able to implement a lot of change in a school that is this large, I felt that I had developed the skills to bring faculty together, to have dialogues with them, and move them in certain directions because of my leadership style,” he said, noting that the changes he brought as associate dean also prepared him for his new deanship.

Former Dean Huw Thomas, who still serves as a professor at TUSDM, said that Karimbux had a major impact on the curriculum at the dental school during his time as associate dean of academic affairs.

“He’s done a really excellent job at reforming our curriculum, making it more contemporary and more integrated across all four years of the school, so I think he was really well positioned to become a dean,” he said.

Karimbux added that the dean of the dental school also manages the clinical program at the school, in which students see around 45,000 patients per year, as well as communications with alumni and faculty. He emphasized that, as dean, he must set a five- to 10-year plan which he will name “Imagine 2030.”

Technological innovation will make up a large part of this plan, according to Karimbux.

“We really think that our graduates are going to live in a very transformative time … That transformative time is going to involve technology, both in the way they learn and are assessed. We mean technology in the way that’s going to impact them, not only in how they practice but in how they might interact with patients,” he said.

Karimbux emphasized that because TUSDM is the second largest dental school in the country, the use of technology would be particularly useful for promoting more active learning in the large classes that come as a result. According to Karimbux, he introduced Learning Catalytics, an online program which allows students to respond to their professors during a lecture, to the dental school before the program spread to other schools in the university.

In addition, the dental school introduced computer-based examinations, according to Karimbux.

“These exams now allow the faculty member to make the exams much more multidimensional, so you can show images, for example, you can show videos, you can have the students not only do multiple choice, but they can also do fill-in answers,” he said. “You’re actually testing a whole different skill set that students need to think about things and apply knowledge.”

Karimbux also noted that greater “interprofessional education” and “interprofessional practice” would characterize the dental school, an initiative that his predecessor, Thomas, had taken on before.

“Some of the initiatives that we’ve done in interprofessional education and what we call interprofessional practice are things that we’ll have to continue to look at and implement with the partner schools,” he said.

TUSDM Executive Associate Dean Mark Gonthier said in an interview with the Daily that Karimbux was an “excellent choice” as dean.

“He’s somebody who knows the school that also brings great outsider energy and a driven vision and enormous self-discipline,” Gonthier said.

According to Gonthier, Karimbux was an editor of the Journal of Dental Education, giving Karimbux an idea of current trends in the field of dentistry.

Thomas, who served as dean since 2011 before Karimbux’s appointment, reflected these sentiments.

“I’m delighted that he chose to stay at Tufts and take over the helm; I think he’s going to do a great job,” he said.

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