Scientific and technological advancements that generate new knowledge continue to occur at unprecedented rates. In order to maintain the status of a respected scientifically-based health profession, dentistry must appreciate and incorporate these advances within its education and patient care system. The continued evolution of the dental profession will depend on the discipline's ability to translate advancements in biomaterials, modern biology/molecular medicine, and integrated interdisciplinary services to clinical settings.
Traditionally, dental school graduates do not have an appreciation for the application/importance of research and discovery to patient care activities and are not adequately prepared to embrace technology-based education/training and informational resources critical to life-long learning and professional growth. The general lack of incentives for clinical dentists to incorporate research experiences/training or follow an academic career course, particularly involving a requirement for original research as part of their job, has resulted in many unfilled faculty positions both in Canada and the United States.
Indeed a crisis looms for dental schools in North America as it has become very difficult to fill these faculty positions with full-time dental instructors capable of academic scholarship and willing to accept lower levels of remuneration compared to private practice. This is particularly important in light of current faculty shortages (250 unfilled positions in US dental schools as of 2004-2005) and the most recent data regarding US dental graduates as the 2003 ADEA Survey of Dental School Seniors demonstrated that only 1.9% of graduates (47 out of 4,000) were interested in pursuing academic/research careers. Recent reports have hypothesized that this problem may be overcome by dental school curricula that create sophisticated consumers of research, foster an appreciation of research/discovery, and stimulate an interest in academic/research careers.
These curricula enhance access, acceptance, and applicability of science and scholarship through integration of biomedical/clinical sciences, scholarly approaches to evidence-based paradigms in clinical patient management, and application of biomedical and technological advances to clinical practice settings. Approaches have included a mandatory dedicated four-year research/scholarly curriculum track as well as various courses, special programs, or elective student experiences. Each approach has demonstrated a positive influence on student attitudes toward careers in academic dentistry. Indeed, new dental faculty have indicated that student participation in research/scholarly activities and active mentorship by faculty were crucial factors in developing their interest in academic/research careers.
Previous reports have emphasized the need for dental schools to integrate research and scholarship into the curriculum such that they produce future leaders for the profession and it has been estimated that dental schools must engage 20% of their best and brightest students with enriched academic curricula for 20% of their educational program in order to accomplish this.
The development of a DMD/PhD program at the University of Manitoba is unique to Manitoba and to Canada. The objectives of the program are:
- To develop dental clinician scientists to undertake leadership roles in dental research and education
- Provide a pipeline of qualified scientists to maintain the level of excellence of teaching and research at the Faculty of Dentistry, University of Manitoba, as well as other dental schools across the country.
- To train highly competent clinician scientists who will make significant advances in our basic understanding of oral infectious and systemic diseases.
- To train scientists conversant in dental diseases who can translate basic research findings into clinically relevant diagnostic, preventive, and therapeutic methods.
Students identifying the DMD/PhD program will be recruited from the pool of students undertaking the B.Sc. (Dent) program and will therefore have met admission criteria and selection processes to enter dentistry. A minimum GPA of 3.0 is required for the B.Sc. (Dent) program. After completion of the first year of undergraduate dentistry and a summer of research in a faculty laboratory, the option of undertaking the DMD/PhD will be discussed with high achieving students. Standard selection processes of the Faculty of Graduate Studies (and associated forms) will be followed and applications will be processed and rated within the Faculty of Dentistry by the standing Graduate Studies & Research Committee.
This program will be an integrated program:
- Students will complete the first year of undergraduate dental studies and enter the B.Sc. (Dent) program. Top caliber students will be identified from academic performance in first year and research performance.
- In the second year of the undergraduate program, a modified scheduling will take place such that students will begin research for the Ph.D. This will occupy approximately one half of their time commitment. The remaining one half will be devoted to undergraduate clinical work. The second summer will be a continuation of their first summer's research as well as the Ph.D. research of the second year.
- Year three will be devoted almost exclusively to Ph.D. research with a small continuation of clinical work. Summer of third year will again be devoted to research.
- Similarly fourth year will mirror third year with a concentration on research. The summer of fourth year will again be centered on research.
- Year five will incorporate continued research effort at a similar pace as in year four. This will enable the collection of the majority of the Ph.D. data. The summer after this year will again be focused on research.
- Year six will see a shift back to the undergraduate D.M.D. program with a small commitment to the Ph.D. research undergraduate dental requirements sufficient for the D.M.D. program.
- Year seven will be similar to year six.
- Awarding of the D.M.D. will not take place until defense of the Ph.D. is successfully completed.
- Both degrees will be awarded at the same time.