NYDA operates as an integral part of the NYC Health + Hospitals system. NYDA dentists and allied staff provide dental care and related services to anyone who seeks diagnosis. Dr. Joseph Morales serves as the Chair of Dental Medicine at NYC Health + Hopsitals/Metropolitan and has been practicing for over 32 years. We sat down with Dr. Morales to discuss his role with PAGNY and his goals for the organization.
PAGNY: How long have you been with NYDA/PAGNY?
Dr. Morales: I’ve been with PAGNY and NYDA since the inception.
PAGNY: Why did you decide to become a dentist?
Dr. Morales: Growing up, I had a mechanical background with good hand eye coordination. My family has a simple, law enforcement background and always encouraged me to obtain a higher degree and go into a professional field. They were a large influence on my career choice and like most parents, mine always wanted me to have more than they did. Once I put together their influence and my keen interest for constructing/reconstructing—I knew my career choice would be either medicine or dentistry.
PAGNY: What makes you mission driven?
Dr. Morales: I’ve always had an interest in public health. After several years of practicing in the private sector, I realized I wanted to make a difference and change my focus to public health and advanced training education. I was passionate about what the next years of my career would look like and merging public health and academics would offer me a more robust, mission driven purpose. When I worked in the private sector, I had a good practice, but realized that there was more that we could offer to the community. Access to care was and still is a major issue in the community. I couldn’t fathom the lack of oral health and access to services.
I’m proud to say that I’ve been at NYC Health + Hospitals/Metropolitan since 1988 and it has been very rewarding. This hospital has an environment that is focused on the community, and it has a family feel. There are patients that have been coming to Metropolitan for years and I’m proud to have served them and this community for so long.
When I’m not in my daily role as the Clinical Department Chair, I am also the academic Chair of Dental Medicine at New York Medical College School of Medicine, as well as a consultant for the NYPD Medical Division. When NYPD officers are treated at NYC Health + Hospitals/Metropolitan, I act as a liaison and facilitator on their behalf to ensure they’re receiving the highest quality of care at our facility. In addition, the Medical Division of the NYPD ensures that children of police officers can earn advanced degrees in medicine or dentistry through a scholarship program which I am proud to be a part of. Educating, training, and seeing the next generations excel and go into dentistry is something that makes me proud to have an influence on.
PAGNY: What research programs have you worked on?
Dr. Morales: New York Medical College was awarded a HRSA grant from 2015-2021 for $2.4 million with me as principal investigator with the goals of increasing access to dental services among vulnerable populations, recruiting underrepresented individuals into the dental residency program and teaching cultural competence to the resident trainees in the form of yearlong Spanish seminars. Since the Grant sunset in 2021, we have continued to achieve these goals. One thing I have learned is that patients in our community want to identify with their clinicians. The demographics of the dental school population years ago was eighty percent male and twenty percent female, and now it’s much closer to 50/50. Hispanic and African American populations were also crucially underrepresented, and we are focusing on changing that so that we represent a workforce that can connect with patients in the community.