The Pennsylvania Board of Dentistry made the right decision when it denied a license to a dentist who was educated outside the U.S. and licensed to practice in Florida, according to a recent opinion from the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Amaris Ramirez, who was a licensed dentist in Florida from December 2019 to November 2020, remains barred from obtaining a dental license and practicing in Pennsylvania, upholding the state dental board and a subsequent hearing examiner’s decision to deny her a license. The court found that the requirements to become a licensed dentist in Florida are not equivalent to those in Pennsylvania, and, therefore, her application for a license could be denied, according to a court opinion filed on January 11.
“Florida’s educational requirements are markedly less stringent than those in Pennsylvania,” according to the opinion signed by Judge Stacy Wallace.
Ramirez challenged the dental board’s decision that the licensing requirements in Florida, where she was licensed to practice, were not “substantially equivalent” to those in Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, dentists who have degrees from nonaccredited schools must earn either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD) degree from an ADA Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)-accredited dental school to receive a dental license in the Keystone State.
Ramirez does not have those credentials. She earned her doctor of odontology in 2011 from Ibero American University, which is not accredited by CODA, in the Dominican Republic and was a practicing dentist there for about two years.
In 2015, she completed a program for foreign-educated dentists at Columbia University. However, this program did not fulfill those requirements because the school did not award her a degree. Under the university’s program, Ramirez needed to complete two years of the program plus a one-year residency to receive the equivalent of a DDS degree, according to the opinion.
Unlike Pennsylvania, Florida only requires a dentist who has a degree from an unaccredited school to complete two consecutive years at a full-time supplemental dentistry program that must provide education at the level a of a DDS or DMD program.
Additionally, Ramirez was not eligible to be licensed by endorsement based on the dental license she has in Florida, according to the court.
“Nonetheless, a comparison of the dental licensing requirements in Florida and Pennsylvania supports the conclusion that Florida’s requirements are not 'equal in their essential respects, or largely equal,' to Pennsylvania’s requirements,” Wallace wrote in the opinion.