How does dentistry change the scope of the dental education landscape? Former dean of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Dr. R. Bruce Donoff, answered that question during a presentation he gave on September 13 at the 231st Meeting of the National Advisory of Dental and Craniofacial Research Council.
Donoff relayed an experience in which he met with a group of dental students seeking counsel. They told him that they had learned about basic science, and they were taught by the medical school faculty at their institution. However, their concern was that every lecture began with, "We don't see why you should know this."
"They should know this," Donoff stressed during his presentation, drawing the audience's attention to the fact that dental institutes came about because of the need for people to be drafted for World War II. They needed seven maxillary and seven mandibular teeth to pull a pin on a hand grenade. If they couldn't do that, they couldn't serve.
"Dental institutes have come a long way since then," Donoff said, "but I think medical and dental education and research need to stay together and be involved."
There have been several recommendations calling for a review of institutions that have integrated medical and dental education and training. "A greater emphasis should be placed on foundational and applied medical education within the dental curriculum," Donoff said.
Donoff's suggestions for changing dental education include the following:
- Dental schools and other dental education institutions should pursue an integrated multidisciplinary approach.
- Dental graduates should become more skilled in using health biomedical tools, and they should have the ability to interpret summary information from large sets of healthcare data.
- Education and training should be provided to dental students so they can function in teams with other healthcare providers.
- Dental education should acquire electronic health record systems.
These are all important, "but changing the culture of the profession is much more important," Donoff added.
This way, "you can really develop champions for putting the mouth back in the body," Donoff stated.