The UIC College of Dentistry believes that we need to educate a dentist who is fundamentally different in professional capabilities from his/her predecessors. We believe this because the world is changing rapidly. Illinoisans today are dramatically more culturally diverse than ever before. And, there is a groundswell of growing public opinion that Illinois dentists must redress the disparities in oral healthcare access that exist in Illinois and across the United States.
Dental practice is also changing rapidly. As our society is aging dramatically, our patients are older and sicker, living with chronic systemic health problems and subsisting on complex polypharmaceutical regimes. Dental practice has become more "business-like" than ever before, creating almost daily professional ethical dilemmas for dentists. A computerized dental practice office is now routine, and the computer will continue to revolutionize dental practice in the future (e.g. digital radiography, artificial intelligence-based decision-making, CAD/CAM prosthodontic restoration fabrication, etc.) Human genomics knowledge discovery will lead to heretofore-unimaginable innovations in diagnosis and therapy (e.g. salivary diagnostics for systemic diseases; biomimetics; genetically engineered oral tissue replacement, etc.)
New Professional Competencies
The UIC College of Dentistry has determined that our graduates of the 21st Century must be competent to:
- Make clinical decisions on the basis of the best available clinical research evidence, i.e. to provide "evidence-based patient care";
- Evaluate and integrate evolving biotechnological advances into dental practice;
- Plan and provide patient care within the context of health promotion and disease prevention;
- Apply the principles and codes of professional ethics to balance the patient care and business/financial demands of dental practice;
- Function as an effective lifelong learner by actively evaluating patient therapy outcomes and acquiring knowledge/skills to improve patient care results;
- Originate and/or implement solutions to the oral health care access disparities;
- Provide care to underserved and multiculturally diverse patient populations, in non-traditional clinical sites;
- Practice collaboratively with allied dental health professionals; and
- Counsel patients about their health behaviors (e.g. tobacco cessation, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, etc.).
The College provides a wealth of learning experiences that ensure our students achieve these competencies before graduation.
'Real-World' Clinical Education
Our Group Practice Clinical Education Model replicates the "real world" of dental practice within the College clinical setting. Three vertically-integrated group dental practices, comprised of International Dentist Degree Program students, fourth-year, third-year, and second-year dental students are aligned with interdisciplinary teams of faculty who are lead by a "Managing Partner" and supported by dental assistants and front desk receptionists. Adult rehabilitative dentistry is provided to our patients in these group practice clinics. (Pediatric Dentistry, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, and Radiology learning experiences are provided in discipline-specific clinic rotations.) The group practice clinics have been equipped with chairside computers to operate an electronic patient record-keeping system. Contemporary instrument tray sterilization and dispensing systems support this "real world" clinical environment. Each clinic has been completely renovated and has integrated technology at each operatory.
Students learn how to evaluate the dental literature in a systematic way, employing computer technology to answer patient treatment questions. An example of such a question is: "For a patient requesting implant therapy, does tobacco smoking affect the osseointegration potential of endosseous implants?"
This program prepares students to be multiculturally competent to meet the needs of traditionally underserved populations in diverse community settings and community-based clinics, and provides support for increased underrepresented minority and financially disadvantaged dental student enrollment and retention. The program provides community-based clinical health promotion experiences for students in a 60-day community-based clinical experience in the fourth year.
Students engage in group discussions of patient care scenarios, employing professional ethical principles to explore solutions to real-life patient care ethical dilemmas.
Bruce S. Graham, DDS, MS, MEd
Dean, UIC College of Dentistry