Dental universities must also emphasize the importance of soft skills

November 19th, 2013

Academic institutions that invest in dental school software tools can experience a variety of benefits in addition to simple improvements in operational efficiency. With an advanced program management system, existing curricula suddenly become living, breathing documents that are easy to update and share across different departments. As technology improves and transforms the oral health care industry, university administrators must be fully prepared to keep their programs as relevant and beneficial to long-term career success as possible.

Interdisciplinary and collaborative experience
Aside from changes to medical care at the federal level, one of the biggest trends in dentistry is for academic institutions to provide students with real-world experience aimed at developing soft skills that are often needed in private practices. According to KyForward, an online news publication based in Kentucky, the University of Louisville Dental School recently initiated a program that establishes an active and fully-functioning clinic targeted toward underserved individuals who have limited access to quality care. The university's Kentucky Racing Health Services Center provides students in dental programs and nurse practitioner programs to get valuable hands-on experience delivering care in a real-world setting. This multidisciplinary approach to oral health education aims to better prepare program participants for the professional workforce.

"These interactions help us feel more comfortable interacting with other professions; it is helpful to learn how a nurse practitioner makes a diagnosis and treatment plan for a patient with diabetes, for example," general practice resident Lauren Parsons told KyForward.

The university program was funded in part through a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the publication said.

Outreach to future dental students
Additionally, academic institutions around the nation must find new ways to encourage their existing students to participate in marketing programs aimed at attracting younger people who may be interested in pursuing careers in oral health care. Eastern Dentist Insurance Company, a dental liability insurance broker, recently announced it will be sponsoring the second annual Dental Student Virtual Fair, which allows people to learn more about academic programs and ask questions to real students and professionals online.

Dental software can make it easier for universities to come up with new outreach programs of their own. Similarly, administrators have the ability to leverage technology to update course requirements and encourage a more interdisciplinary approach to education. Traditional classroom tools are essential. However, today's students must develop more nuanced skills as well. 

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