Community-based Facilities: Effective Learning Environments
The Dental Pipeline schools revised – and continue to revise – their curricula to support a 60-day capstone senior year clinical experience in community-based health centers, private practices, and other facilities dedicated to treating underserved populations. Rotations to off-site locations have two major objectives in dental education:
- To broaden students’ sensitivity and knowledge so that practitioners can offer “humane, comprehensive, and more equitably distributed (care) to every segment of the community, no matter how ethnically, economically, or psychosocially diverse.” 1
- To provide students with the opportunity to treat patients in busy patient-oriented facilities where they can enhance their clinical skills.
Coursework Optimizes Off-site Experiences
Preparation in the early years of the curriculum is critical for students to acquire a deep appreciation for the needs of vulnerable populations that they will use later in clinical rotations. The 2003 ADEA President’s Commission2 on improving Americans’ oral health recommended that schools improve their curricula as well as providing off-site experiences. It also recommended that the Commission on Dental Accreditation raise its standards to strengthen existing standards addressing cultural competency so that students are better prepared to provide oral health services to diverse populations.
Each of the Dental Pipeline schools is at a different point in examining and developing their curricula. Their efforts include a curriculum overhaul that supports the goals of the Dental Pipeline program, a course-by-course review of content, faculty training for off-site education, and developing criteria to evaluate student cultural competence skills.