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Letters: Equivalent degrees

January 22, 2018

I hope that every member of the House of Delegates that voted in favor of the resolution defining "equivalent degree" in Atlanta this year can read the Nov. 6, 2017, article in the ADA News titled "Becoming a Dentist." Perhaps they should rethink their vote. A vote in favor of this resolution defines that individual state legislations can now determine the qualifications necessary to be a dentist.

Do we possibly compromise this reputation to raise membership numbers? Is the ADA in existence for its members or the organization? I say the ADA needs to uphold the definition of "equivalent" when it comes to the definition of our American earned dental degree or remove it from our bylaws.

The qualifications and sacrifices of our American students in the ADA News article consider themselves as being honored to earn their degree to become a part of our honored profession.

Compromising this honor with recognition of a substandard definition of "equivalent" and equating the qualifications of foreign dental schools to our American dental school system is not what they signed up for.

Equivalent? How desperate for members are we? What is the ADA communicating to our newest potential membership? The ADA should encourage high standards to support the sacrifices and dedication of young students entering into our profession. We send the wrong message to ASDA members and pre-dental students by embracing mediocrity to beef up our ADA membership numbers. I can guarantee this is not what the dental students in the ADA News article — Ben, LaShonda or Dan — signed up for.

Steven A. Saxe, D.M.D.
Las Vegas

Editor's note from the ADA Council on Membership: At its 2016 meeting, the ADA House of Delegates adopted Resolution 79H-2016, which calls for Chapter I of the ADA Bylaws to be deleted in its entirety and replaced with a revised version, effective beginning with the 2018 membership year. The underlying intent of these revisions is to improve the member experience, minimize the barriers to joining and increase the flexibility of making necessary changes in the future.

While the bylaws language has been streamlined for 2018, the guidance about an equivalent degree has not fundamentally changed. Amended Chapter I of the bylaws states that individuals are eligible for membership in the ADA if, among other criteria, they hold a D.D.S., D.M.D. or equivalent degree without any requirement for licensure.

However, it is inaccurate to assume that any dental degree awarded outside the United States is the "equivalent" of a D.D.S. or D.M.D. degree. Equivalency should be determined by looking to see if the degree is one that permits the degree holder to sit for licensure examinations in the jurisdiction without any additional training (e.g., a two-year advanced standing program for international dentists).

Many state dental boards only allow individuals holding degrees from CODA-approved dental educational programs to apply for licensure. In those states, for purposes of determining eligibility for active ADA membership under the revised ADA Bylaws, there would be no degrees considered to be "equivalent" to D.D.S. and D.M.D. degrees.

Dental boards that allow an individual trained outside of the United States holding only a foreign degree to apply for licensure are relatively rare. One example is California, where a foreign-educated dentist may apply directly for licensure if their foreign dental school has been approved by the Dental Board of California. Under this allowance, dentists would be licensed to practice in California only and not eligible to practice in other states. Currently, only the University de La Salle in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico and the State University of Medicine and Pharmacy "Nicolae Testemitanu" of the Republic of Moldova have been approved by the board. Consequently, in California, only dental degrees conferred by University de La Salle in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico and the State University of Medicine and Pharmacy "Nicolae Testemitanu" of the Republic of Moldova would be considered "equivalent" degrees for purposes of being eligible for active ADA membership.

Given the very limited number of degrees that are considered equivalent under the amended Chapter I of the ADA Bylaws, it is not believed that an issue has been created as a result of the removal of the licensure requirement for ADA membership.