Tag Archives: curriculum

Discovering Who We Are

by Patrick J. Ferrillo, Jr.

Around here, we often say, “The greatness of Pacific Dugoni is its people.” No one can imitate what we do because no one else has built, over decades, a group so completely dedicated to making its school great. Others have yet to figure out that it is not just the faculty, the students, alumni or any other single factor. It is everyone continuously working together to reinvent ourselves.

Planning To Advance Greatness

I am proud of our strategic plan (which you can learn more about at www.dental.pacific.edu/Strategic_Plan.html). But the real story is how this plan was created, continuously updated and is being implemented. We are actually in the plan’s third stage; having framed the original plan and completed the implementation, we are now working on a revision of the plan. There is not a student, faculty or staff member or alumnus who has not been invited to participate, and literally hundreds of people have—in town hall meetings, via surveys, by making specific recommendations or joining writing groups, as well as assisting in the changes that have taken place in our curriculum, our teaching philosophy and departmental restructuring.

Dr. Alan Gluskin ’72, co-chair of the Department of Endodontics, who led the first Strategic Planning Committee, laughs as he explains, “We only accomplished half of our recommendations during the first few years of the original plan. Of course we had more than 200 recommendations, so half of that is pretty good progress.”

Our strategic plan is about reaching beyond boundaries.

The process has been as important as the product. After all, many dental schools have binders of strategic plans on shelves in somebody’s office. But using an inclusive approach to planning and implementation, rotating the leadership and guiding the process with professional outside consultants, we have increased our school family’s sense of ownership. Through the process of ensuring comprehensive participation, we have truly been discovering who we are.

Rethinking the Educational Experience

The term “curriculum” is almost obsolete here. That word conjures up images of isolated courses that are fit together in some pattern, often dictated by time and faculty considerations. Because we are competency-based, everything is now focused on students’ learning experiences.

Our strategic plan is about reaching beyond boundaries. It is focused on preparing oral healthcare providers for scientifically based practice through developing evidence-based decision making and critical thinking across the curriculum; calibrating and cross training faculty across behavioral, biomedical and clinical sciences; and increasing interprofessional collaborative opportunities. The Helix Curriculum is now in our genes.

We have moved away from merely teaching course content and toward providing a rich network of experiences designed to educate a balanced professional, who is not only practice ready today, but equipped to be so well into the future of the evolving profession. Sequences of small lectures have been replaced by large strands of integrated experiences. Currently in place are the preclinical, clinical sciences, medical sciences and clinical practice strands. A fifth personalized instructional program strand will promote student and faculty individualized personal development and is in the pilot-testing phase.

The goal is that both students and faculty members will grow in their ability to put together all their knowledge and skills and apply them to patient care. It is good to know the nuggets of dental knowledge and to have the technical skill to fabricate beautiful work. But the ultimate test is being able to deliver this in patient care. Thus, most instruction now — both in the clinic and the didactic portion of the program, and even into the community — is taught by teams of faculty members, and is case-based, interactive and participatory.

The curriculum is articulated as well as being integrated. Meaningful opportunities to integrate material are not left to chance. Each of the strands has or will have its own coordinator. Coordinating is a full-time job done by individuals who are not faculty members but are experts in managing learning; know how to use computers to deliver material and track outcomes; and are here full time to follow up on all the details. Faculty members are knowledge and skill experts; the coordinators manage the educational experiences by arranging logistics, teaching materials and evaluation.

Group Practice Clinic Model

The clinic model is also being reworked to deliver state-of-the-art care and outstanding patient experiences in a setting that resembles private practice. Pacific has always been at the forefront of dental education in this area. Jim Pride, when he was clinical dean in 1972, developed the concept of comprehensive patient care where patients are assigned to students rather than to departments. That approach has since been imitated by every other dental school. In 1998, then-Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Dave Chambers pilot tested a program to determine whether smaller clinic practices would improve care. Two randomly chosen cohorts of students and two faculty team leaders were chosen to determine what group size was small enough so students felt responsible to each other, and to see where private practice concepts such as team meetings, productivity monitoring and coordination of patient care across team members would make a difference. Although we were not ready to implement our finding at the time, the outcomes data demonstrated that this model, compared with the rest of the clinic, leads to significant improvements in student grades, patient satisfaction, clinic income and—most important of all—to objective measured improvements in patient oral health. We are now well into the planning and incremental implementation of this model.

We Need a Bigger Box

Innovations in our educational and clinical programs have caused us to run up against unexpected limitations. The building that was right for us 46 years ago is no longer up to the task. So we are moving on and forward.

Our new campus in San Francisco’s South of Market area addresses three needs. First, it will give us the flexible seminar and clinical facilities to support our new model of dental education. Second, it will open up a new patient base and a presence for the school in the heart of the City. Third, it is making us focus on the big picture. By the time the architects ask, “Where do you want this to go?” we already have had to think through the educational and patient care effects. Much like the strategic planning process that vitalized the entire school, planning for the move to Fifth Street has pulled together teams of faculty, staff, students and everyone else affected by the change to work through what matters and understand how the solutions for one group affect the way others operate. It is like putting on a new suit or a new dress. When we look in the mirror we see who we are in a new way.

The new building has also made it crystal clear that the Dugoni School of Dentistry is not an isolated community. We have a strong tradition of community outreach. Our new location will immerse us in a new community, with a different mix of patients. This pending move has reminded us of our University’s tradition of community collaboration and international exchanges. The need for the change and the opportunities it presents has not been lost on our alumni. The response from our rich network of former students and friends has been positive and has been demonstrated in very tangible support.

Global Footprint

Pacific Dugoni is expanding even beyond its new home in the heart of San Francisco. Our well-established and highly regarded International Dental Studies program has built our school’s reputation throughout the world. But consider opportunities on the ground in Alexandria, Egypt; Wenzhou and Beijing, China; Kuwait and Europe. We have formal exchanges with schools in all of these areas, ranging from hosting students and faculty, to tours, to an innovative program involving our AEGD program and the Benard School of Education on the Stockton campus and to resource sharing for degree programs in China. The students’ traditional dental mission trips have been brought under the school’s formal umbrella for purposes of coordination, insurance and supervision.

I have served as the president of the board of directors of the International Federation of Dental Educators and Associations (IFDEA) whose mission is to create a global community of dental educators joining together to improve oral health by sharing knowledge and raising standards. This has proven to be a robust platform for our faculty, students and alumni to share with their colleagues around the world.

Technology Matters

Before I arrived, the school had passed through the necessary stages of acquiring computers for a select group of technical experts and then equipping smart classrooms and clinics. We are now well into the phase of implementing technology for learners. We have installed AxiUm—a turnkey comprehensive record and management system—for all our clinics. The training for faculty, staff and students in how we use computers in patient care and in teaching is extensive. However, training is an opportunity as well as a cost. Education and patient care are now more responsive, more accurate and more coordinated. We have been more fortunate than most dental schools that must compete with other programs on a university campus for common resources. We have our own staff and resources, and they are outstanding.

An unanticipated benefit of technology has been the need to share and coordinate, as technology makes this easier. The days are rapidly disappearing when treatment of a patient in one specialty area could proceed without affecting other departments. Faculty members, who practice and teach one or two days per week, can now consult electronically on the care of patients who are here on other days. The clinical competencies of students needed in each quarter automatically feed the design of preclinical and didactic instruction. Faculty members can easily find out about what their colleagues and the students are doing. And, they can participate in planning and case management. All of this is translated into school-wide standards rather than departmental or individual ones.

Who Are We?

The strategic plan calls for three other broad goals: define new standards for education; discover and disseminate knowledge; and actualize individual potential. One might be fooled like the boy who watched the marching bands, the clowns and the elephants, and dignitaries but asked, “Where is the parade?” Pacific Dugoni is not a plan or the new building or a curriculum or a program: it is the people who do those things so well. Making the program better means building the potential of everyone in the building and the way they interact.

We have worked with the Stockton campus to deliver a doctoral program in education to almost a dozen faculty and staff. We are exploring a degree completion program for staff who need a few more courses to earn their first degree. Karl Haden and his Academy of Academic Leadership have a branch office on Webster Street (or so it seems). He has brought management expertise in planning and curriculum development and conducted about 15 days of basic teaching skills programs for faculty and staff.

The traditional lines in dental education that separate students, faculty and staff have held back dental education. These lines are being blurred at Pacific Dugoni. Faculty members are becoming learners, staff members are becoming effective managers and students are valuable resources for community health.

Recently, as I passed through Café Cagnone, I chatted with Drs. Frank Brucia ’44 and Irwin Marcus ’48 Ortho. I have seen them pouring over the portfolios of candidates for admission around the holiday season since I came to Pacific Dugoni in July of 2006. The conversation is always the same. “Dean, we must be doing something right. I just had an interview with one of the most qualified, actively involved and interesting young persons who wants to come here to be a dentist. And they just keep coming and they just keep getting better.” “Yes,” I say, “We are doing many things right. And I thank you and I thank all the others who make this happen. If you don’t stop, we are unstoppable.”

I can see the future of dentistry from here. It is who we are.

Launching the Leadership Strand

By Louise Knott Ahern

When Dan Hammer, Class of 2011, envisions his career, he sees a lot more than a nine-to-five dental practice. He sees himself as a leader who motivates others in his profession, his community and in the ever-changing world of health care while providing the best care for his patients. In fact, that’s one of the reasons he chose to attend the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry. The school prides itself on developing people first and dentists second.

“I chose Pacific first and foremost because of its humanistic model of education,” said Hammer, Associated Student Body president. “The amount of camaraderie and collaboration that goes on here is unparalleled.” This makes him the perfect student to usher in a new extracurricular program to the Dugoni School of Dentistry’s world-renowned curriculum.

Launched last fall by Hammer and fellow Class of 2012 students Alan Chee and Jonathan Gluck, the new Dugoni Practical Leadership Initiative (DPLI) is an enrichment program that offers students a way to learn and practice the lifelong skills that will help them become effective leaders. Featuring a mix of workshops and hands-on learning opportunities, the program is designed to foster leadership skills in three key areas: as individuals, as members of a team and in their communities.

The program developed in part as an offshoot of research by Hammer and faculty mentor, Dr. Nader Nadershahi ’94, executive associate dean, which found that students and faculty alike would support opportunities to promote the importance of personal leadership. “This is innate in the culture of our dental school and our humanistic approach,” Hammer said. “DPLI’s catch phrase is, ‘As a dentist, you have no choice but to be a leader.’ So to be a respected health care professional, you have to step up.”

How It Works

The program features four components, all designed to not only create leadership skills that students can build on throughout life but which they can also put to use immediately. “Our goal is that after every presentation, they can take something away that will translate into daily life immediately,” Hammer said. “They may hear something about motivating a team or delivering a treatment plan, and we hope our juniors and seniors will go to clinic the next day and use those tips.”

The program’s four components are:

  1. Workshops: Students will attend six workshops over six months focused on each of the three leadership themes. Workshops challenge students to identify their own leadership personalities, explore effective management techniques for running a successful dental practice, learn how to motivate a team and discover ways to network as a young professional.
  2. Experience Leadership Mentorship Program: Five students will be paired with a faculty member or Dugoni School of Dentistry alumni mentor based on their areas of interest. Organizers hope this will give students an inside view of the differing fields of dentistry and broaden their networking horizons.
  3. Distinguished Speaker Series: Three speaker series programs will allow students who are not participating in the leadership curriculum to grow as leaders. Experts and dental practitioners will offer valuable insights on how to be leaders in both their personal and professional lives.
  4. Leadership in Action Practicum: Students will work in groups to research and execute real projects. The first: students will present to the Dean’s Cabinet on the newly
    released feasibility report from Kahler Slater architects regarding student response to early plans for a new dental school building.

How It Fits

For many Dugoni School of Dentistry students and faculty members, the program is a logical and natural fit with the school’s history and mission. “Leadership, historically, has been an implicit part of our curriculum,” said Dr. Cindy Lyon ’86, chair of the Department of Dental Practice. “Given that our vision statement—leading the improvement of health by advancing oral health—is dependent on great leadership abilities, I think nothing could be better aligned with Pacific’s mission than this personalized program.”

But the program is also part of a broader curriculum initiative. The dental school recently began rolling out the Helix Curriculum—an effort to infuse every aspect of a student’s training with both the technical skills to succeed as a dentist and the personal skills to interact with patients, co-workers and peers.

“Critical thinking, reflection and lifelong learning are important parts of this curriculum,” Lyon said. “The DPLI gives students new tools to assess their personal strengths and weaknesses as leaders, explore the dynamics of how groups interact and examine how they can best influence and effect change.”

The effort—including the leadership initiative—recently helped earn the Dugoni School of Dentistry the prestigious Gies Award for Outstanding Vision for an Academic Dental Institution. Awarded by the ADEAGies Foundation, the award is named after dental education pioneer William J. Gies, PhD, and recognizes individuals and organizations for contributions to global oral health and education initiatives. The winners exemplify dedication to the highest standards of vision, innovation and achievement in dental education, research and leadership.

How It Will Help

The Dugoni School of Dentistry already stands out among dental schools for its personalized approach to education. Third-year students, for example, are asked to prepare a full business plan that would prepare them to launch a successful dental practice. Lyon and Hammer said the Dugoni Practical Leadership Initiative expands that approach, giving students a way to build a life plan, not just a business plan.

“Mission statements calling for us to actualize individual potential and develop and promote policies addressing the needs of society,” Lyon said, “really inspire us all to roll up our sleeves and contribute to the world in a meaningful way.”

Louise Knott Ahern of Williamston, Michigan, is a freelance writer, writing coach and former editor at University of Redlands.