Dr. Leslie S.T. Fang has spent his career bridging the gap between the medical and dental fields—and it all started on his first day of medical training at Harvard Medical School.
That’s when he met Dr. Robert Fazio, who sat next to him in the lab. The medical student and the dental student became “friends for life,” Dr. Fang said, supporting each other throughout school and often discussing the challenges facing their fields.
As soon as Dr. Fazio, who became a well-known periodontist, graduated from dental school, he reached out to Dr. Fang about collaborating on a textbook. He saw a void between the dental and medical worlds and wanted to work with Dr. Fang to fill it.
At the time, dental professionals were starting to perform more complicated procedures, keeping patients in the chair for long periods without knowing anything about their medical condition—a combination that could get them killed, Dr. Fang said. So, the doctors formed a lecture series called “How Not to Kill Your Patient” with Dr. Fang discussing medical issues and Dr. Fazio focusing on dental. The pair also went on to write multiple books together, including “Principles and Practice of Oral Medicine,” “Oral Medicine Secrets,” and “The Ultimate Cheat Sheets: The Practical Guide for Dentists.”
“That’s how I became the bridge,” said Dr. Fang, who is a practicing physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and a faculty member at Harvard Medical School. “We would spend afternoons talking about if a patient comes in at the end of the day on Friday with a hot tooth and has a certain medical condition, what do you do? I tried to envision what life was like for a practicing dentist and to figure out the simplest way for them to understand medical issues so they don’t get into trouble. The key emphasis is making sure they take the best care of patients possible. If dentists only pay attention to the dentistry, they’re serving their patients poorly, and that’s especially true in 2020.”
Dr. Fang’s knowledge and involvement in the dental field has been vital during the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s been a resource for dentists as they navigate through reopening their practices and make the necessary changes to keep their team members, their patients and themselves safe.