A.I. HAMILTON (AUTUMN 1978), IS DENTAL EDUCATION REGAINING ITS SANITY?, OPERATIVE DENTISTRY, VOL3(4) PP. 121
Is Dental Education Regaining Its Sanity?
The announcement in a recent issue of the Bulletin of Dental Education (vol 11, no 10, Oct 1978) of the American Association of Dental Schools that six dental schools (Alabama, Case Western Reserve, Emory, Michigan, Pittsburgh, and Oregon) have decided to reject capitation support from the federal government for the current year may signal a trend towards a return to sanity in dental education.
The main purpose of capitation support was to enlarge and modernize dental schools so that larger classes of dentists could be graduated each year. Receipt of the funds was contingent on an undertaking by the dental
school to increase its enrollment. A larger enrollment might be acceptable if the quality of instruction were not compromised. However, little or no provision was made for a commensurate increase in competent faculty to serve the increased number of students. The scarcity of qualified teachers, especially in operative dentistry, has adversely affected the quality of instruction offered to dental students. This situation is not likely to be perceived by the entering student who will then not realize that he is being short-changed in his education.
A new piece of retraction cord attached to the granting of capitation support for 1978-1979 is that a receiving school must either increase the size of its first-year class or train all students for at least six weeks away from the main teaching site. Is it possible that the government planners, from their vantage point of omniscience, now recognize that the standard of teaching in dental schools is such that the student is better served by going elsewhere for his training?
It is worth noting that Louis G Terkla, dean of the University of Oregon Dental School, has shown exceptional foresight and courage—not to mention common sense—in having declined, since 1972, to accept the strings attached to capitation support. It is disappointing that he has been the only dean to do so. Perhaps now, with a nucleus of six setting the trend, a growing list of schools will follow.
Too many school administrators have been willing, for a mess of bricks and plastic, to jeopardize the education of their dental students, inevitably resulting in an inferior service to the public. Once a dental school exceeds its optimum size, education suffers. Dental school administrators should firmly resist all government attempts at coercion and control. They must regain their freedom and attend to their proper business-serving the public by providing a first-class education for dental students.
A IAN HAMILTON
University of Washington
School of Dentistry SM-56
Seattle, WA 98195