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Ethics and integrity subcommittee outlines initiatives for House

With the ADA Board of Trustees' support, the Opening Session of the House of Delegates will include a statement from the Speaker of the House on ethics and integrity in the dental profession.

The Speaker's address is just one of several recommendations made by the Joint Subcommittee on Ethics and Integrity in Dental Education, a workgroup appointed in 2007 when the Board charged two councils—Dental Education and Licensure, and Ethics, Bylaws and Judicial Affairs—to develop recommendations for advancing ethics in dental schools in an effort to curtail unethical and unprofessional conduct.

The dental profession has heightened its focus on ethics in education and the profession in recent years since several incidents of cheating on graduation requirements, National Board Dental Examinations and clinical licensure exams came to light.

At its meeting in August, the Board of Trustees approved the joint subcommittee's action plan, which proposes several comprehensive initiatives and activities already being implemented by stakeholder organizations working collaboratively with the subcommittee—including the American Dental Education Association, the American College of Dentists, American Student Dental Association, Commission on Dental Accreditation, American Association of Dental Examiners, American Society of Dental Ethics and the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations.

"I am very pleased with the progress that the subcommittee has made this past year with issues as complex as ethics and professionalism," said Dr. Stephen K. Young, joint subcommittee co-chair. "The progress we have made is due in large part to the collaboration between CDEL and CEBJA with the American Dental Education Association and American College of Dentists and several other organizations. Each council and association brings its own expertise to the table and also reduces duplication of effort."

The joint subcommittee has already achieved several of its goals; others will take more time to complete. In August, the ADA Board approved the continuation of the subcommittee's work and authorized expansion of its scope to address ethics and integrity issues facing dental practitioners. In so doing, the Board directed that representation from the Council on Dental Practice be added to the subcommittee's membership.

"We are seeking to re-affirm a commitment to enhancing ethical standards and the conduct of all individuals in the dental profession," said Dr. W. Scott Waugh, co-chair of the joint subcommittee. "Unethical conduct impacts the entire profession, and the same expectations should be required in dental practices and dental organizations as they are in educational programs."

Some examples of the joint subcommittee's recommendations can be found in Board Report 14 in members-only content on ADA.org.

An example of the initiatives considered by the subcommittee is the development of an ethics scenario library that could be used to further the understanding of ethical principles. However, the subcommittee learned that the American College of Dentists is in the process of developing a clearinghouse of ethical case studies that it intends to make available online. Some sample cases were published in a recent Texas Dental Journal and are posted at www.dentalethics.org/ethicaldilemmas.shtml. Rather than duplicate ACD's effort, the joint subcommittee agreed that the ADA's support and assistance should be provided to ACD in developing its clearinghouse.

The subcommittee has also published the proceedings from the Symposium on Ethics and Integrity in Dental Education as a way to keep interested parties informed of the profession's efforts to curtail unethical or other inappropriate conduct.

In 2007, CDEL and CEBJA co-sponsored the Symposium on Integrity and Ethics in Dental Education to address the apparent increase in unethical and unprofessional behaviors by dental students. ADEA and ACD and 70 other stakeholders and national experts on ethics participated in the event.

Copies of the proceedings will be available for ADA delegates in the Information Resource Center in the Delegates Registration Area during annual session. An executive summary is available online at www.ada.org/prof/ed/ethics_symposium.pdf.

The subcommittee continues with the full support of both CDEL and CEBJA.

"The council is highly supportive of this issue," said Dr. Frank Maggio, CDEL chair. "It started out as an idea within the council three years ago and has expanded to include all interested parties working diligently on solutions. I believe that having all of the profession's stakeholders involved has been and will be essential and beneficial as we move forward."

Continuing the work of the joint subcommittee is essential, added Dr. James F. Smith, CEBJA chair.

"We have been extremely pleased with the intercouncil cooperation with this subcommittee thus far, but these activities won't happen overnight," said Dr. Smith. "Continuing the joint subcommittee's work is fully supported by the council and is in the best interest of the profession."