Curriculum Innovations Earn UIC College of Dentistry National Award

The University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry was selected to receive the 2012 William J. Gies Award by the American Dental Education Association for its innovative clinical curriculum.

Over the past nine years the college has implemented a sequence of improvements in clinical education to prepare students to provide oral health care to traditionally underserved patients and to advocate for universal oral health care for all Americans.

"It’s been a long voyage to completely change the way we do clinical education," says Dean Bruce Graham. "I give all the credit to our faculty. They were creative and courageous enough to try new things and believe in what we were trying to do. This award goes to them."

In 2002, UIC was one of 15 U.S. dental schools chosen for a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation initiative to improve the curriculum and improve access to dental care for underserved populations. The $1.5 million grant allowed the college to focus on educating dentists committed to treating oral diseases of vulnerable urban, rural and special-needs populations, including minority, economically disadvantaged and developmentally disabled.

That same year, separate discipline-based clinics were eliminated at the college, and three group practice clinics were created to provide students with a "real world dental practice." Each clinic consisted of 50 operatories. A managing partner was chosen for each, to lead an interdisciplinary team of faculty comprised of restorative dentists, prosthodontists, periodontists, endodontists and oral and maxillofacial surgeons, Graham said.

In addition, the college also eliminated outdated preclinical teaching laboratories and replaced them with a simulation clinic, made up of 70 patient care units identical to those in the group practice clinics.

In the 2003-04 academic year, the college added a summer term of instruction between the first and second years of the predoctoral program that allowed students an earlier introduction into clinical education. The curriculum also changed to substitute mandatory clinical attendance rather than clinical procedure requirements for third- and fourth-year students, Graham said.

"At that time, our students weren’t spending any time at all outside of the college's walls," Graham said.

The college has partnered with 20 community dental clinics throughout Chicago and Illinois to provide students with the opportunity to treat patients outside of the college clinics. Under the guidance of Dr. Caswell Evans, associate dean for prevention and public health sciences, the extramural rotation program provides fourth-year students with 50 to 100 days of experience.

Students can also participate in rotations in Colorado and Guatemala.

In 2010, fourth-year dental students provided 12,500 patient appointment visits in the community clinics. The third-year students now have as many clinical experiences in their college clinics as the fourth-year students who graduated 10 years ago, Graham said.

Not only has the number of student clinical experiences increased, but clinic revenue has as well. Income from the predoctoral student clinic has grown from $850,000 in fiscal 2001 to $4.5 million in 2010, Graham said. In 2009, the college ranked sixth among 57 dental schools in clinic revenue generated per dental student.

The Gies Awards, named after dental education pioneer William J. Gies, honor individuals and organizations for vision, innovation and achievement in dental education, research and leadership. This is the second award in two years for UIC; last year Evans received the award for achievement by a dental educator.

The award will be presented at the American Dental Education Association meeting in March in Orlando.

UIC ranks among the nation's leading research universities and is Chicago's largest university with 27,000 students, 12,000 faculty and staff, 15 colleges and the state's major public medical center. A hallmark of the campus is the Great Cities Commitment, through which UIC faculty, students and staff engage with community, corporate, foundation and government partners in hundreds of programs to improve the quality of life in metropolitan areas around the world.For more information about UIC, please visit www.uic.edu.
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