Achievements & Awards Education Faculty Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery/Hospital Dentistry

Dr. Justine Moe receives national award for virtual curriculum program6 min read

November 9, 2020

Dr. Justine Moe receives national award for virtual curriculum program6 min read

Ann Arbor, Mich., Nov. 9, 2020 – Dr. Justine Moe, a faculty member in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMFS), has received a national award for initiating a national virtual curriculum early this year when the COVID-19 pandemic limited resident training programs around the country.

The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) presented Moe with its Advocacy Challenge Coin, a new recognition program for the organization’s members who further the specialty through advocacy. The AAOMS Board of Trustees and Committee on Government Affairs approved the award for Moe and 10 co-organizers of the Collaborative OMFS Virtual Inter-Institutional Didactic Program, or COVID program.

Dr. Justine Moe with the AAOMS award.

Moe is an Assistant Professor of Dentistry, the Program Director of the OMFS Residency Training Program and the Associate Director of Head & Neck Oncologic and Microvascular Reconstructive Surgery Fellowship in the Michigan Medicine Department of Surgery, Section of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

The pandemic forced healthcare systems to implement significant reductions in clinical activity and surgeries. The residents in the U-M OMFS program were front line providers on a rotating basis designed to safely protect the service as a whole. This allowed significant additional time for didactic pursuits. “What we experienced here was similar to what OMFS programs across the country experienced as academic faculty and program directors grappled with the challenge of having to maintain an educational focus during the pandemic,” Moe said.

She reached out to several OMFS colleagues at other training programs to gauge interest in developing a joint curriculum for a series of webinars. She received an enthusiastic response and a core group of 11 organizers began developing goals and organizing topics. They decided to use the Zoom platform and reached out to program directors around the country to secure more speakers. That appeal generated widespread support and it was soon clear that such a program would have national interest.

Moe, along with Dr. Elda Fisher at the University of North Carolina and Dr. Carolyn Brookes at the Medical College of Wisconsin, were lead planners. The group secured lecture commitments from OMFS faculty from many sub-specialties and decided to hold two one-hour webinars each week. They publicized the program through AAOMS, its related organization for residents and social media. Moe delivered the first webinar, on oral cancer, on April 6.

“From there, it really skyrocketed,” Moe said. “We had more and more training programs hoping to join every day. At the end of it, we had about 80 programs that participated, as well as individual residents and dental students. We were able to get experts from all sub-specialties of oral surgery to give their expertise. It was a great way to provide high-quality didactics during the early part of the pandemic and even as things began to open up more during the summer.”

So many speakers volunteered that, after only two weeks, organizers expanded the program to three one-hour sessions per week and easily filled out the schedule through the end of August. The webinars averaged about 200 participants, with a high of more than 400. They joined the Zoom meetings from every corner of the U.S., as well as from Canada, Mexico, Germany, South Africa, Chile and other countries in Europe, Asia, South America and Central America.

By the time the program finished in August, residents were presented with 58 lectures on topics such as ablative surgery and neck dissection; principles and applications of maxillofacial endoscopy; pharmacogenomics in anesthesia; trigeminal nerve injury diagnosis and treatment planning; and management of ballistic injuries, to name a few.

In addition to Moe’s lecture on oral cancer, two of her U-M OMFS colleagues made presentations – Dr. Ron Aronovich on “Diagnosis and Initial Management of TMJ Disorders” and Dr. Sean Edwards on “Pediatric Inflammatory Diseases” and “Concepts in Cleft Lip Repair.”

Dr. Brent Ward, chair of the OMFS Department, said Moe’s leadership was remarkable. “This effort brought together programs throughout the nation in a unified way to maximize resident education in a time of enormous challenge,” Ward said. “Dr. Moe’s vision and speed of engagement was critical to its success. The impact of what she accomplished cannot be overstated.”

Moe said the COVID program’s value went beyond its purely academic value. “When we were so isolated during the pandemic, it was really nice to connect as a group of OMFS across the country, to engage in discussion and to allow for networking of dental students, residents and faculty across the country and world.”

This fall the organizing group plans to discuss how the program might continue next year. Members of the OMFS specialty have advocated for the development of a national curriculum several times over the last 20 years. An AAOMS Surgical Council on Resident Education national curriculum has been under extensive development and is launching in 2021. Considering that history, Moe said, “The ability to develop the COVID program relatively quickly and to generate such overwhelming interest allowed the program to offer something akin to a national curriculum for the first time. We have yet to determine next year’s plan – if the program continues as a running lecture series or if it is integrated into other initiatives as part of a formalized national curriculum.” Either way, this pioneering work will be informative to both subsequent endeavors.

In announcing the Challenge Coin award, AAOMS said it is reserved for “those elite few who transcend the efforts of their colleagues to further the specialty through advocacy. Recipients receiving this honor designate significant portions of their time and effort to ensure our specialty thrives by personally advocating at the local, state and federal levels for our profession and patients.” AAOMS said its new award is patterned after a military tradition that may date to ancient Rome, when soldiers were rewarded for valor with a bonus coin featuring the legion’s mark. Modern-day military units issue challenge coins for unit members’ special achievements.

To learn more about the COVID program’s organizers, presentation schedule, and participating universities and health systems, go to its website here.

More information about the AAOMS Challenge Coin Award can be found on the organization’s website here.


The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care and community service.  General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the school to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan.  Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia and public agencies.  Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide.  For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit us on the Web at:  Contact: Lynn Monson, associate director of communications, at, or (734) 615-1971.