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Washington State Dental Association

Parrish or Perish: Buddy, can you spare some time?

  Come on, admit it. You’ve thought about it for a long time, probably since dental school. You had lots of great examples of mentors, so you know you have a responsibility to be one. It can’t be that difficult now that you have some experience behind you – lots of things that were issues before, you have them figured out. Why not become a mentor? You have a little spare time during the week, so you could do it.

    “What the heck are you talking about, Parrish?” you ask. I’m talking about teaching part-time at our fine dental school. 
 I’m addressing my remarks to both UW grads and grads from other dental schools. It makes no difference; the dental school belongs to all of us who practice here in Washington. It is a great source of continuing education, research, new dentists to provide care for Washingtonians, and maybe someday, someone to buy your practice.So all of us have skin in this game. And right now the dental school needs our help.

    As many of you are aware, the dental school is undertaking a dramatic, totally new curriculum starting right now with the class of 2017 – this year’s juniors. So with new curriculum/old curriculum running parallel, the next two years will be especially taxing. Instead of the traditional “classroom heavy for the first two years, classroom light for a year, plus integration into clinic and skill development,” followed by the last year of skill refinement (with much less classroom), the new approach is radically different. The current third-year students will be in school and clinic over more days year round (48 weeks vs. 40 weeks currently) and have a very heavy immersion into clinic their junior year. By the end of that year, they will be expected to be “safe beginners,” and demonstrate clinical competency in all aspects of dentistry. Senior year will be “just like practice,” with clinic to be run like a general practice. Seniors will no longer have restorative in a restorative clinic, endo in endo, etc. Their care will be whatever they have treatment planned for their patients that day, based on the patients’ needs, not their “requirements.”What a novel idea! You can see how this is probably quite different from the way you were taught.…and a challenge for everyone involved.
 Juniors will be intensely immersed in eight-to-12-week blocks covering only one area at a time and be expected to exhibit clinical competence of the subject (ortho, pedo, endo, etc.) at the end of the block. Because these clerkships are so intense, they require a student-instructor ratio of 1:4 instead of the traditional 1:6-8. Plus, as these clerkship blocks will run concurrently with fourth-year clinics this year, more overall faculty are needed right away. Therein lies the rub. That faculty, both full and part-time, does not exist. That’s where we come in. There are lots of opportunities for you to work part-time teaching students during their clerkships.
    The Emergency Clinic always needs help; Restorative Clinics will need more help as the fall semester opens. Additionally, the school must process more new patients to meet all these needs. Right now, the two most critical needs are in the Oral Diagnosis/Treatment Planning Clinic and a new concept, the Dental Admission Clinic. 
  As Dr. John Sorensen, Associate Dean for Clinics, explained: Clinic: “This new approach to new patient admissions attempts to screen patients in about an hour of the patient’s time (and) develop a problem list and range of treatment fees,...There is no attempt at teaching, as this is a high-level rapidly moving clinic with a faculty doctor and a great team of dental assistants and patient treatment coordinators performing a digital pano, the exam, problem list, (and) fee range estimate, with the patient treatment coordinator answering all of the patient’s questions. If the patient wants to proceed with treatment, the faculty then assigns the patient to the appropriate clinic and moves onto the next patient.”

 If you’re up for providing a valuable service to get more bodies into the system without actually teaching, this clinic may be just your ticket.
 The Oral Diagnosis/Treatment Planning Clerkship requires a student-instructor ratio of 1:4. Dr. Sorensen indicates this may be the veteran clinician’s most enjoyable teaching experience – sharing knowledge and guiding students through the process of patient work-up, determination of a problem list, diagnosis, and treatment plan based on the individual patient’s needs. 

    Clinics are two and a half hours, morning and/or afternoons, Monday through Friday, year round. The school is especially looking for general dentists to share their experience and knowledge with the students. I am assured there will be plenty of faculty backup in all the clinics when things get a bit more intense than one might see daily in private practice; no one is going to be left hanging without a faculty member nearby. There is a screening process for instructors mandated by the state that will take some time, so you won’t be thrown into clinic next week. You will have plenty of notice.
 Dean Joel Berg and all the faculty are working very hard to make this new curriculum work and be a model for training dentists in the coming years. But they need our help in doing so. Pretty much everyone has something to offer to help train our new dentists to carry on the fine tradition of excellent dentistry from the UW. That includes YOU! 
You can find out more by contacting Christina Wee in the Dean’s office at or (206) 221.7964. She will direct you to the appropriate department and people in your area of interest. Ask your friends to teach, too. Students have assured me they need more faculty right now.

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