Volume 9 • 2022 • Issue 6

2023 launch of what will be Canada’s only dental therapy degree program. This program has a specific focus on supporting underserved populations, including Indigenous communities. Challenges Training the next generation of dental professionals requires committed teachers, mentors and leaders. Succession planning and the recruitment and retention of faculty are challenges that I believe require a renewed focus to ensure the next generation of faculty members. In addition, the cost of dental clinic operations has increased due to factors such as the pandemic and a shifting global situation. Evolution of dental education Our DMD program has shifted from a specialist focus to a more holistic/generalist view. Our Year 3 and Year 4 students are enrolled in a comprehensive care clinic instead of a discipline-based clinic, and this shift helps students better connect classroom content to day-to-day clinic learning. The college has initiated digital dentistry education in our DMD curriculum. This offers students the opportunity to learn and incorporate digital dentistry in pre-clinical and clinical experiences throughout their four-year program. In the coming years, I believe digital dentistry and AI will change how we teach and practise dentistry. Our college is incorporating that perspective in planning for our pre-clinic and clinic renovation. students and focuses on 5 key areas: student experience, content, delivery, sequencing and assessment. The model is competency based and arranged in a unique spiral structure. It consists of 3 streams—patient care, biomedical foundations and clinical practice—in each year of the program with progressive learning of topics, which are then revisited with increasing complexity. Themes such as professionalism, social responsibility and communication are included in all four years of the program. The number and clustering of written examinations has been significantly reduced and each course has designated space for study and student wellness. A comprehensive Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) has been added to the end of third year to identify each student’s strengths and weaknesses and facilitate remediation in fourth year. Final year students are evaluated on their professionalism, communication, peer teaching and mentorship skills, with feedback from junior students, support staff and faculty. A variety of student electives have been incorporated into the final year of the program to enable students to choose and pursue an area of particular interest. Challenges The rising cost of dental education with very limited government funding provincially and nationally is the biggest challenge facing dental education in Canada. The financial burden is being shifted to students resulting in increased debt load, which threatens student diversity. Students from low socio-economic backgrounds may be excluded from the opportunity to become dentists. Furthermore, rising costs has resulted in increased need for dental teaching clinics to be self-sustaining and profitable. It is becoming more difficult to attract new patients and promote dental school teaching clinics as a place to receive comprehensive oral health care. Attracting the best students to pursue careers in postgraduate education, academia, research and teaching is very difficult as most students have significant debt when they graduate. School pride We are particularly excited about our new DDS curriculum. Working with educational consultants, a leading edge and completely overhauled curriculum has been implemented into all four years of the DDS program. The design of the new curriculum maximizes learning for Succession planning and the recruitment and retention of faculty are challenges that I believe require a renewed focus to ensure the next generation of faculty members. University of Alberta Dr. Paul Major, senior associate dean of dental affairs at the Faculty Medicine and Dentistry 30 | 2022 | Issue 6 Issues and People