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Strategic Plan UABForging Ahead: UAB's Strategic Plan 2024-2028

Forging Ahead, UAB's five-year strategic plan for 2024-2028, builds on the success of past plans and outlines the university's mission, vision, shared values, peers, foundations and pillars, as well as outlines institutional goals and strategies to achieve them, and measurements of success.

Shared Values: We CARE

Collaborate: Work as a team for the greater good.
Act with integrity: Be accountable and always do the right thing.
Respect all: Champion diversity and opportunities for all, with civility.
Excel: Innovate and strive for excellence in everything we do.

UAB Mission

UAB enriches society and improves health and well-being through transformational educational experiences, groundbreaking research, innovation and entrepreneurship, community engagement, and world-class patient care while serving our UAB, local and global communities.

UAB Vision

UAB is a world-class research university and academic health system committed to understanding and improving the human experience.

A New Framework for SOD Success

With UAB’s adoption of Forging Ahead, each school/college/unit is now creating localized strategic plans to advance each area of the enterprise, guided by the big-picture direction provided by Forging Ahead. As those efforts continue – informed by Forging Ahead – we are reminded to maintain a focus on the institution’s refreshed vision, mission and values. Ultimately, we exist to improve the lives of people – at UAB, across Birmingham and Alabama, and around the world.


Closing out our 2018-2023 Strategic Plan

  • Message from the Dean

    Message from the Dean

    Dear SOD Family,

    As we near the end of our existing strategic plan, this offers us an opportunity to celebrate our 2023-2024 accomplishments and reflect upon its final stages.

    Last year was one for the record books. Our D.M.D. program continued to grow and UAB International Dentist Program kept expanding its worldwide reach. More than 1,400 people attended our two-day Dental Hygiene Symposium in person in August, making it one of the largest hybrid dental meetings in Alabama, and Alumni Weekend again hit an all-time high in attendees and vendors. The 19th annual Scholars Symposium saw a record high number of submissions (111), a nearly 40 percent increase over the prior year’s event, and the School of Dentistry was well represented at 2024 IADR/AADOCR General Session and in IADR leadership. The National Dental Practice-Based Research Network (PBRN) held its 2024 Annual Meeting in April, hosting practitioners from its eight-state South Central Region right here in Birmingham. This underscores our expanding leadership, influence, and impact locally and globally.

    A few more highlights:

    Our NIDCR ranking has increased to #11, with total NIH funding of nearly 5.5M. Established in 2007, our DART Program remains at the national forefront of training future dental academicians and notably, GC-CODED was among 25 University-Wide Interdisciplinary Research Centers selected for UWIRC status and associated institutional funding in FY 2025. These cornerstones of our research enterprise help develop faculty and trainees and set the stage for future innovation.

    Patient Care
    The patient care team has worked to improve the experience for our patients who attended 65,000+ appointments last year. We held a ribbon cutting for our new first floor clinic last summer and our team expanded comprehensive and limited care services to benefit patients and students.

    The school is actively involved in partnerships that engage communities and improve oral health for people across our state and beyond. With more than 15 active student organizations, our students have been busier than ever serving those in need. Our community-based patient care efforts include the first-of-its-kind satellite clinic we opened in Dothan this spring, as well as the oral cancer screenings and numerous oral health information fairs we attended locally and statewide.

    And within the educational arena, we launched a new Rural Dental Scholars program and welcomed our first Blaze to DMD program cohort as part of our D1 class last year. These are important pathway programs with the long-range goal for students to go into practice in areas of the state that have a greater need for dental services, such as rural and minority communities. 

    Over the last several years, we have supported the UAB master plan through enrollment growth and competitive recruitment strategies. Our classes continue to grow and become more diverse. In fact, we were thrilled to meet our newest class – the Class of 2028 – for whom we hosted a welcome day in April.

    Ultimately, our job is to prepare students for successful careers that meet societal needs. This is why we celebrated our award-winning students in June with the return of Honors Convocation, and we are so proud of our newly minted D.M.D. graduates, postdoctoral students who completed their residencies, and students who earned graduate degrees last year.

    Of course, one of the best moments of the 2023-2024 academic year was celebrating the school’s 75th anniversary on October 18. Our anniversary week was marked with activities for faculty, staff, students, and alumni alike. It was truly a memorable occasion. Highlights of the full anniversary year can be found in this newly released 2023 year in review.

    We have achieved a great deal throughout the course of our strategic plan, but there is more to be accomplished. As we kick off our fall term activities, we can look forward to many opportunities going forward. These include continuing to evolve our curriculum and facilities to meet our education and patient care goals. Teams have already been busy preparing for this year with a focus on innovation and building critical infrastructure. We are also getting set to welcome students to our state-of-the-art UAB Dentistry Dothan clinic, as rotations will begin later this month. This will provide valuable exposure to practice in other parts of our state.

    And with the launch of UAB Forging Ahead, our school will refresh our own strategic plan over the coming months to align with the university’s new strategy and set the direction for our future.

    Here’s to a successful future.

    Go Blazers!
    Nicolaas Geurs, D.D.S., M.S.


Leading health
through oral healthcare


To optimize oral health in Alabama and beyond through teaching, service, scholarly activities, and patient care


Patient Centered
Unity of Purpose

Education Pillar

Strategic Goal: Create an immersive student experience centered on excellence in education that produces a successful graduate.

  • Strategic Objective 1: Support the enrollment master plan for the university through sustained enrollment growth and competitive recruitment strategies

    Rationale: Maintaining high enrollment is vital to the success of our university. SOD has routinely filled its entering classes to capacity. The activities below describe goals for increasing enrollment that will require additional efforts in recruitment. With the ultimate goal of successful graduation, the School will also place an emphasis on retention strategies.

    • Activity 1: Recruitment
      • Recruit and select qualified applicants for admission consistent with the dental workforce needs in Alabama, with special emphasis placed on recruitment of qualified students from underrepresented backgrounds
      • Establish and use educational pipelines to engage students from middle school to college, particularly those from rural and vulnerable populations, to create a cohort of potential applicants
      • Targeted marketing to students completing the Dental Admissions Test, with an emphasis on our award-winning faculty, highly ranked position in research, and broad range of programs and educational opportunities available
      • Recruit qualified faculty, with special efforts aimed at underrepresented faculty recruitment and retention
    • Activity 2: Enrollment
      • Devise a plan for enrollment growth which includes predoctoral programs, international dentists programs, and postdoctoral programs
      • Identify resources needed to meet enrollment objectives
    • Activity 3: Retention
      • Develop systems for recognizing students that need and want assistance
      • Provide academic support for effective learning in didactic and clinical areas
      • Promote faculty development to retain faculty
  • Strategic Objective 2: Prepare students for successful careers that address societal needs

    Rationale: Students must be prepared for practicing in a variety of settings that include education, research, and community care. The changing landscape of health care delivery entails adaptability and the capacity to work within interprofessional teams.

    • Activity 1: Create a suite of innovative programs
      • Support student participation and completion of innovative programs such as dual-degrees (DMD/PhD, DMD/MBA, DMD/MPH, MD/DMD)
      • Identify opportunities for new programs with a clinical or research focus
      • Explore ways to create external UAB dental clinics to extend clinical training into the community
    • Activity 2: Cultivate student success through integrative learning
      • Foster and implement a curriculum which is strongly based in the biomedical sciences, behavioral sciences and clinical sciences, and promotes their integration and prepares student for the new integrated national dental board exam
      • Utilize partnerships within UAB and area health schools to create interprofessional health care teams and simulation environments that enhance learning
      • Develop a culture of service to address important aspects of equity and inclusion, opening the door to equalize access to care
      • Incorporate technology and learning in teams into teaching methodology
    • Activity 3: Expose students to a myriad of patient care settings
      • Continually build existing roster of clinical experiences to include specialized community care settings
  • Strategic Objective 3: Design our curriculum and facilities to meet our education and patient care goals

    Rationale: The curriculum and facilities must be redesigned to meet our education goals, particularly in the area of enrollment where our current spaces limit the number of students. Continual review of our curricular elements and calibration of faculty will allow us to maintain high standards for education during periods of growth.

    • Activity 1: Curriculum review
      • Ensure that education at SOD is transformative and reflective of scientific evidence and breakthroughs in knowledge through a systematic review process for individual courses and the overall curriculum
    • Activity 2: Faculty calibration
      • Conduct ongoing calibration of faculty to standardize educational and treatment processes and techniques
    • Activity 3: Facilities
      • Provide facilities that foster learning in teams and enhance workflows for patient care

Research Pillar

Strategic Goal: Lead through preeminence in basic, translational, clinical, and education research.

  • Strategic Objective 1: Drive the research enterprise through innovation

    Rationale: Innovation drives the School of Dentistry research enterprise creating new knowledge and energizing the entrepreneurial spirit of discovery while collaboratively working on imaginative new approaches to advance science. Our passion is to translate what we learn into knowledge that will change your world by generating new bench-top discoveries that can improve healthcare.

    • Activity 1: Create Themes of Scientific Expertise
      • Infection / Host Response
      • Craniofacial Development / Genetics
      • Biomaterial Science / Biomimetic
      • Implementation Science / Clinical Outcomes
      • Support new and renewal grant submissions
    • Activity 2: Foster Collaborations at the Local UAB, National, and International Levels
      • Engage collaborators locally, nationally, and internationally on research, service, and training grants to create research expertise opportunities
      • Integrate research faculty into UAB University-Wide Interdisciplinary Research Centers (UWIRC’s) and on-going research programs building opportunities for large federal grants
      • Host seminars/symposiums to highlight SOD faculty research and build knowledge across the UAB-community about what our faculty do to ultimately foster collaborations among faculty across campus
      • Be an active participant in the university’s research grand challenge
  • Strategic Objective 2: Train the next generation of dental academicians

    Rationale: Developing a comprehensive research-training program focused on development of an innovative, integrated, multi-disciplinary approach to produce a cadre of well-trained, skilled, collaborative scientists and clinician scientists is crucial in addressing the shortfall of clinician scientist pursuing an academic career. Our strategy is to grow, nurture, and encourage our own trainees to pursue dental academic careers resulting in the creation of a talented faculty pool.

    • Activity 1: Create Pipeline Training Programs
      • Continue research enrichment programs to grow and nurture a talented pool of faculty recruits
      • Integrate faculty and student-based career development programs with the Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences to further enhance research skills and grant success rates
      • Expand global research collaborations by hosting foreign visiting scientists, students, and postdocs
  • Strategic Objective 3: Enhance our national and international research visibility/brand

    Rationale: Increasing national and international recognition of the outstanding work conducted at UAB can contribute significantly to further growth of the University

    • Activity 1: Be the leading national center for clinical trials
      • Identify signature research studies related to dental implants, periodontal regeneration, dental materials, prevention and dental genetics
      • Disseminate evidence obtained from SOD research nationally and globally via a wide range of venues to include literature and websites to establish UAB as the site for oral health research and policy
      • Communicate our brand through presentations at national and international conferences and meetings
    • Activity 2: Expand Research Infrastructure and Equipment
      • Consider using biomedical informatics to capture clinical research data from the electronic health record
      • Replace major research equipment and allocate appropriate spaces to optimize productivity
      • Extend clinical trials research into a clinical research facility

Engagement Pillar

Strategic Goal: Establish UAB School of Dentistry as one of the best places to work, learn, and be a patient.

  • Strategic Objective 1: Build a culture of high performance and excellence

    Rationale: Engagement is a prerequisite for high-performing organizations. In an engaged workforce, employees accept accountability for their work, they are more productive, and stakeholders are more satisfied.

    • Activity 1: Align employee goals to core values and school outcomes
      • Educate employees on the school’s mission, vision, and values, workplace expectations, and the UAB Dentistry way of doing things
      • Encourage employees to take ownership of their work product
      • Lead and coach employees to success
    • Activity 2: Measure and maximize stakeholder engagement
      • Monitor results of the campus-wide climate survey and compare with findings from previous surveys
      • Monitor results of student engagement and alumni surveys
      • Develop an alumni index to measure alumni engagement
      • Align survey results to strategic initiatives aimed at each stakeholder
    • Activity 3: Communicate SOD successes and market to targeted communities
      • Celebrate successes and use social media as a means of engagement and exposure
      • Continually establish the UAB Dentistry brand, making effective use of the web site, digital signage, and positive word-of-mouth
  • Strategic Objective 2: Cultivate partnerships that engage communities of interest

    Rationale: We view engagement as an iterative process that includes discourse, participation, and relationship building. The benefits of shaping these connections include potential collaborations, broadening our network, and improving oral health beyond our physical space.

    • Activity 1: Promote community outreach
      • Support programs that connect us with communities locally and globally
    • Activity 2: Engage leaders in the university system, organized dentistry, state legislature, and industry
      • Build relationships with organizations and individuals that elevate our profile and reputation
    • Activity 3: Encourage philanthropy
      • Continually grow philanthropic and development efforts
  • Strategic Objective 3: Develop a culture where diversity is valued, where cultural competence is practiced, and where differences are recognized and appreciated

    Rationale: To engage a diverse society, we must continually devise focused efforts to improve our own diversity and exposure to different cultures and communities.

    • Activity 1: Recruit, retain, and develop a diverse community
      • Utilize pipeline programs and targeted recruiting to attract students from different racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, educational, and regional backgrounds
      • Provide support for retention through scholarships, academic assistance, professional development, participation in organizations aimed at diverse student populations, and mentoring
      • Plan deliberate recruitment and retention activities to connect with diverse faculty and staff and ensure equitable processes for hiring, evaluation, and promotion
    • Activity 2: Diversity awareness education and cultural competence
      • Intentional educational programming including experiences that raise awareness and enhance our ability to interact with, and serve, diverse populations
      • Implementation of a diversity toolkit to encourage practices that foster an inclusive and equitable climate
      • Facilitate cultural awareness with programs like the Diversity Cultural Advancement Team (DCAT)
    • Activity 3: Engage diverse communities
      • Increase oral health literacy through community based dental education
      • Collaborate with other units on campus to implement diversity initiatives
      • Foster community connections through activities such as health fairs, screenings, and oral health education events

Patient Care Pillar

Strategic Goal: Lead health through better oral health.

  • Strategic Objective 1: Improve the patient experience

    Rationale: Oral health is a vital component of preventive medicine and essential to the general health and quality of life across an individual’s life span. Building a relationship with patients requires a consistent investment of time and attention through the continuum of care. Strong patient relationships net higher overall patient satisfaction scores resulting in loyal patients. To improve the patient experience it is important to create a person-centered culture founded in principles of compassion, service and high quality. Delivering person-centered care is about developing health care solutions that consider the patient’s needs, desires, values, family situation, social circumstances and lifestyle, all of which is central to improving the quality of health care. This means placing people and their families at the center of healthcare decisions and seeing them as experts, working alongside professionals, to get better patient care outcomes.

    • Activity 1: Patient Focused Care
      • Provide holistic person-centered care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient needs, preferences and values – ensuring that patient values guide patient access and clinical decisions
      • Create an integrated/unified electronic health record that is shared or linked among all health care professionals within UAB
      • Link the UAB Dentistry Wellness Clinic with the UAB Employee Wellness Program, providing health rewards to employees that seek treatment in the School of Dentistry
      • Identify and eliminate barriers to increasing chair utilization and improving efficiency
      • Renovate the Comprehensive Care Clinic to improve patient flows by redesigning service delivery and aligning clinical services
      • Investigate flexible financial options for patients to finance treatment
      • Create a clear UAB Dentistry brand around the inclusion of all people and health care services delivered
    • Activity 2: Access to Care
      • Identify and eliminate barriers to patient appointments and wait times
      • Lead the development of a Professional Clinical Services Plan to serve as the sole practice plan for clinical activity for first professional schools providing clinical services
      • Expand services through community based dental clinics
      • Investigate a UAB-sponsored dental care plan (VIVA Dental) to provide services to UAB employees
      • Provide patients with easy access to parking
      • Mark our district by providing easy to read signage
  • Strategic Objective 2: Identify what sets us apart as a flagship oral health care delivery and education program

    Rationale: What sets up apart is having more board certified dentists under one roof than you will find anywhere in the State of Alabama. What we bring to the table is our expertise, experience and capabilities to manage highly technical and difficult cases using specialized technology while providing patients with the necessary information they need to improve their health.

    • Activity 1: Specialized Treatment
      • Create multidisciplinary teams of students, faculty, and staff to identify and develop highly specialized and evidence-based person-centered treatment therapies
      • Build skilled compassionate treatment teams and promote a culture that embraces diversity and inclusion
      • Concentrate on the continuum of care for patients to promote healing….a more personal level of care
      • Develop strategies to reward creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship that lead to long term financial growth
      • Streamline operations to be able to provide value-based care in specialized settings
    • Activity 2: Marketing Plan
      • Position UAB Dentistry as a center for clinical excellence
      • Ensure UAB Dentistry is recognized across the state and beyond as a top venue for exceptional patient care
      • Be an integral part of the UAB Campus Community by promoting what we do best
  • Strategic Objective 3: Create a culture based on patient satisfaction

    Rationale: Patient satisfaction is at the core of person-centered care. Improved patient satisfaction not only leads to an enhanced patient experience, it is also linked to improved treatment outcomes. Patients, faculty, staff, and students inevitably view the same episodes of care through different lenses. To build and retain loyal patients we must vigorously invest in our people by hiring top talent, training for success, and rewarding behaviors that lead to superior customer satisfaction.

    • Activity 1: Train for Success
      • Coach faculty, staff, and students on how to engage with patients to create loyal and satisfied customers
      • Reward for going off script and taking care of an issue creatively
      • Train care coordinators to facilitate patient-care services
      • Train staff to better serve patients who have communication barriers
    • Activity 2: Measure Success
      • Track progress and identify areas for improvement to effectively change and strengthen patient satisfaction by creating a patient satisfaction survey that demonstrates an interest in quality and doing things better