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Former ADA president teaches ethics, promotes video contest to students

March 19, 2012

By Jean Williams, ADA News staff

For the past two years, Dr. Ronald Tankersley, ADA 2009-10 president, has presented the Dr. Cyril R. and Evelyn F. Mirmelstein Ethics Lecture at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry, where he is an adjunct professor.

Dr. Tankersley

“My talk basically approaches ethics from a scientific perspective, discussing what evolutional and behavioral psychologists, sociologists and neurobiologists have found. This approach gives the subject a different slant,” he said. “Following the formal presentation, we discuss some ethical dilemmas.”

Then, to cap off the lecture each year, Dr. Tankersley presented something of a treat. He showed a few of the last year’s entries to the ADA Council on Ethics, Bylaws and Judicial Affairs Student Ethics Video Contest. Then he encouraged VCU dental students to submit their own entries.

“I save the ethics video contest entries as a hook because the students enjoy them so much,” Dr. Tankersley said. “They get very excited about them.”

Last year, Dr. Tankersley showed VCU students the 2010 winner and runner-up, which inspired them to make and submit their own creation in 2011. In his 2012 lecture, Dr. Tankersley showcased VCU’s entry to the 2011 Dental Student Ethics Video Contest and those of the 2011 winner and runner-up.

“VCU’s entry was really good,” Dr. Tankersley said. “I would hate to be the one who had to judge them. VCU didn’t win. But, like the others, theirs was very, very creative.”

At the end of his 2012 Mirmelstein Lecture, Dr. Tankersley urged the VCU students to try again. “I challenged the classes to compete with one another and for VCU to submit more than one video,” he said. “But I don’t know what they’ll wind up doing.”

Dr. Tankersley was the trustee liaison to CEBJA when the council established the video contest at the ADA. He has since continued to sing the contest’s praises.

“The process of creating those videos really drives home the significance and fundamentals of professional ethics,” he said. “I think projects like that are extremely beneficial. One of the problems with ethics education in dental schools is that we just assume that the students know what ethical conduct is. In truth, ethics must be taught. Ethics education and peer pressure are essential elements in fostering ethical behavior.”