Importance of dental education and research highlighted in recent article series
CALIFORNIA, U.S.: The Journal of the California Dental Association recently published a series of articles on the role research plays in the education of dental students. Covering a topic that many experts believe needs more attention, the articles focused on why maintaining innovative research programs are crucial in preparing students for their careers in the industry.
Three articles on the topic were featured in the journal. “The importance of research in dental education and practice” by Dr. Peter J. Polverini highlighted that research allows dental students to develop a deeper understanding of the biosocial underpinnings of the profession. In her article, “Enriching the oral health sciences workforces,” Dr. Rena N. D’Souza called on dental schools to renew their investment in training the next generation of clinical scientists. Dr. Mark C. Herzberg traced the historical roots of the dental profession in his article “History and importance of research in dental education.”
Editor-in-chief of the journal Dr. Kerry K. Carney said that the drive for new knowledge needed to remain a core value in educational institutions and private practices. “Exposing trainees to the principles and practice of science fuels a sense of curiosity and is one of the primary tools for teaching critical thinking, which in turn promotes a habit of lifelong learning.”
The evolution of dentistry is directly related to the advancements made through research, and this connection has always been relevant. In a 1940 paper titled “Research in dentistry; its importance in dental education,” author Dr. Hamilton B. G. Robinson said: “The founding, almost simultaneously, of dentistry’s first school, first society and first periodical signalized a desire for knowledge and for progress.”
However, dedication to research in today’s current education model does not seem to be as strong. Speaking to Dental Tribune International, Carney said that the idea for the article series came after hearing rumblings of a move away from research in some models of dental training, apparently for reasons of cost and efficiency.
When looking at the figures, those rumblings become quite loud. The author of a paper titled “The impact of research on the future of dental education: How research and innovation shape dental education and the dental profession,” Prof. Harold C. Slavkin, from the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry at the University of Southern California, told Dental Tribune International that “the distribution of National Institutes of Health grant support is an excellent approach to evaluating the rankings of dental schools concerning the research scholarship by faculty, students and staff.” He noted that approximately 15 dental schools are quite active, whereas most U.S. dental schools have little research activity as measured by peer-reviewed research projects.
When asked about what is missing from the dental curriculum when it comes to the world of research, Slavkin said that faculty who model the behaviors of curiosity and critical thinking are often in short supply. “Dental schools that employ inquiry-based learning, such as problem-based learning, are often the academic institutions that foster dental student engagement with research inquiry.” He added that there was an excellent opportunity to improve the research contributions from dental academic organizations.