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Stakeholders explore comprehensive dental education study

July 14, 2014

By Kimber Solana

Photo of Stakeholders groupStakeholders meet: About 40 people attended the June 19-20 stakeholders meeting at ADA Headquarters to discuss a landmark study on current dental education models and dental education's future.
About 40 stakeholders met June 19-20 at ADA Headquarters and worked on a landmark study on current dental education models and dental education's future.

Their goal: To more clearly define the questions that a comprehensive study on dental education should address and explore how the study could be conducted.

Photo of Dr. Dolan
Dr. Dolan: "We thought it would be important to engage stakeholders, including representatives of ASDA, new dentists, dental specialists and health policy experts, to fully consider the issues raised in Resolution 56H-2013."
Photo of Dr. Hart
Discussing education: Dr. Thomas C. Hart, vice chair of the Council on Scientific Affairs, speaks during a group discussion on evaluating the long-term sustainability of dental schools.
"When you embark upon these studies, one of the most important aspects is to figure out what the right questions are to ask. It's not so much as trying to come up with the answers at first but trying to come up with the right questions," said Dr. Cecile A. Feldman, chair of the Council on Dental Education and Licensure's Dental Education Committee and dean of Rutgers School of Dental Medicine, in welcoming the attendees.

"Without the right questions, we're not going to come to the right answers."

The meeting came in response to House of Delegates Resolution 56H-2013, which called for the ADA to collaborate with various stakeholders, including dental educators, students, practicing dentists, health economists and other experts to define the scope and specific aims of a comprehensive study of current dental education models.

The resolution directed that the study should include four issues:

•    Evaluation of the long-term sustainability of dental schools.

•    Evaluation of the efficiency of the current dental school curricula and deliver methods.

•    Analysis of the impact of student debt on dentistry as a career choice and subsequent practice choices.

•    Determination of whether dentals are meeting the appropriate level of scholarship to ensure that dentistry continues to be a learned profession.

"Right now, dentistry is still a viable and promising profession, but certain trends could change this luxury," said attendee Kristopher Mendoza, American Student Dental Association president. "Being proactive with a study of this magnitude may help us uncover the solutions to the future of dental education and ensure dentistry remains a respected profession."

To help identify the most critical questions for the study, extensive group discussions followed detailed presentations of each of the four issues during the two-day meeting.

"Dental education is remarkably complex," said Dr. Richard W. Valachovic, president and CEO of the American Dental Education Association. "The meeting helped other stakeholders appreciate the various institutional, regulatory, accreditation, research and many other factors that contribute to the costs and financing of educating dentists and residents."

Along with ASDA and ADEA, other participants included leaders from associations of specialties in dentistry, the American Association of Dental Research and the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations. Deans and professors from the dental schools of Case Western Reserve University, University of Colorado Denver, University of Michigan, Virginia Commonwealth University and University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio were also in attendance.

"While CDEL membership includes representatives of the dental education, licensure and practice communities, we thought it would be important to engage stakeholders including representatives of ASDA, new dentists, dental specialists and health policy experts to fully consider the issues raised in Resolution 56H-2013," said Dr. Teresa A. Dolan, CDEL chair.

The Dental Education Committee and CDEL will consider input from the meeting, and a report will be generated over the summer with recommendations back to the House of Delegates in October, she said.