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Spring 2020 Newsletter: Oral Medicine Specialty Recognition

Thamer Musbah, BDS

On March 3 the National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards announced some very long-awaited and exciting news to the American Academy of Oral Medicine (AAOM).

After almost 75 years from the inception of oral medicine and roughly 34 years from its first application for dental specialty recognition, oral medicine has become the 11th recognized dental specialty.

This recognition is a great milestone to the AAOM society and I am thankful that the National Commission has finally recognized this specialty. But I’m even more grateful to those in the AAOM who were involved in the process and those who never gave up despite numerous obstacles.

Before I mention what this recent recognition means to me, I would like to share my personal oral medicine endeavor.

My first encounter to the oral medicine field was under the supervision of Drs. Miriam Robbins, Alexander Kerr and David Sirois at NYU College of Dentistry. My initial plan was to learn the basics but eventually practice general dentistry. Within the first few weeks I started experiencing uniquely challenging cases on a daily basis, something I rarely encountered during my dental education and brief private practice. The cases ranged from general dentistry on mentally and physically challenged patients, to oral lesions and the management of non-odontogenic pain. To be honest, I found myself overwhelmed and underprepared. But with the help of the great faculty mentioned above, I was continuously challenged to learn more and, most importantly, left eagerly wanting to pursue a career in oral medicine.

I went on to complete my oral medicine training at UPENN where my knowledge was extended beyond my expectations and my passion toward the field grew stronger and I knew that a career in academia would be my next destination. Oral medicine is the unique field that really bridges dentistry and medicine. As a solely oral medicine clinician my faculty practice is mainly referral based. Physician and dentists alike refer patients to me for non-surgical management of various conditions. We as oral medicine clinicians provided a much needed and highly demanding service to the underserved population. We are the ones with expertise in managing these cases.

The recent specialty recognition, although long past due, is a great achievement to the field and worthy of a celebration. It is a victory, hopefully the first of many. When asked, “what do you do?” I have always simply replied “I am a dentist with special training in oral medicine” even though I knew I was an “oral medicine Specialist”. I can finally reply as such and it feels great to finally be recognized for it!