A lasting impression
Robert Primosch reflects on time as associate dean
By Bridget Higginbotham
When Robert Primosch, D.D.S., M.Ed., started dental school, pediatrics was the furthest thing from his mind — he was actually fearful of his first few child patients. But thanks to the instruction and encouragement of faculty, Primosch realized he loved the specialty.
“I had certain mentors during my education that had such a strong influence on me,” said Primosch, a professor of pediatric dentistry in the College of Dentistry. “And perhaps I also chose academics because I’d like to have had somewhat the same influence on other students. I strongly believe in mentoring. By training future clinicians, I have a much wider range of influence on the quality of pediatric dental care than I could ever do as an individual practitioner.”
In order to return to spend more time mentoring residents and continuing his own research in pain and anxiety in children, Primosch decided to step down as the College of Dentistry’s associate dean for education.
There are several milestones from his time as associate dean on which he looks back with pride, namely serving as a facilitator to help other staff, students and faculty accomplish their goals.
Take for instance the searchable, Web-based Electronic Curriculum Organizer, or ECO. By putting standardized syllabi and PDF versions of course materials online eight years ago, the college is more organized, user-friendly and green, which saves money, time and labor.
“Now I don’t know how we’d live without it,” he said. “I think it’s grown a life of its own.”
The student handbook and teaching standards were also put online and are easily accessible, which Primosch says will be invaluable when the college is going through reaccreditation in a few years.
The curriculum also was realigned to improve the sequence of basic biomedical sciences instruction.
Another big change, says Primosch, was the hiring of a full-time director of student and multicultural affairs, Patricia Xirau-Probert, who counsels students with their struggles and recruits minorities to the school.
In March, the college opened the renovated pediatric dental center and named it after Primosch in honor of his 25 years of training residents. Primosch helped raise the $750,000 for the clinic by contacting the program’s former residents.
“I sort of had a discussion with myself one day. I said ‘Get past your fear of asking people for money. I’m not asking for them to give me money, I’m asking them to give money to the program,’” Primosch said. “The thing that was always easy to say was, ‘Where would you be today if the University of Florida’s program was not here?’”
Primosch is in the clinic several times a week working with dental students, hoping to spark within them an interest in treating children, in part because of the lasting impact his students could have on young patients.
“I think that’s a very unique aspect of treating children: You’re the first one in. You can really develop their attitudes and behaviors toward future dental care significantly,” Primosch said. “And I think that’s a great contribution to be able to do that.”