The past decade has seen a decreasing dental faculty workforce and number of faculty per dental school combined with an increase in dental school enrollment. In addition, during the early 1990s, there was an increase in the number of vacant budgeted positions. The resulting concern over the future of the faculty workforce formed the foundation for a 1999 American Association of Dental Schools President’s Task Force on Future Dental School Faculty report, “Future of Dental School Faculty,” and a 2000 ADEA Association Report, “Dental School Faculty Shortages Increase: An Update on Future Dental School Faculty.” As a result of these reports and the recommendations made therein, ADEA has implemented a number of strategies to ensure that the dental education community continues to successfully recruit and retain an adequate faculty workforce.
Two ADEA tools help dental education institutions recruit new faculty members and help interested individuals pursue careers in academic dentistry. The Academic Dental Careers Network (ADCN) connects job seekers and employers through vacancy announcements listed on the website and a searchable database of job seekers. The website provides job seekers with information and resources on academic careers. The other tool, available both on the ADCN and in DVD format, is the Academic Careers in Dentistry video. This video presents information on careers in academic dentistry, including research, as well as segments on several dental specialties. It includes clips from leaders who describe the fulfilling careers they have found in academia.
ADEA’s efforts also include programs designed to increase minority faculty members. Foremost to this effort is the W.K. Kellogg/ADEA Minority Dental Faculty Development Program, which provides institutional grants to be used for direct educational assistance for underrepresented minority students and junior faculty. Funds have gone to support academic partnerships, community-based practices, and mentoring programs.
Since substantial educational loans may act as barriers to some individuals interested in entering academic careers, ADEA actively advocates for federal support for education and training through a variety of federal programs. These forms of assistance through loan consolidation, loan repayment, and loan interest tax deductions are administered through the U.S. Department of Education, Health Resources and Services Administration, National Health Service, Indian Health Service, and National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
In addition to these federal programs, with the support of generous donors, ADEA is able to offer numerous scholarships, awards, and fellowship opportunities to faculty, including new faculty, allied dental education faculty, and dental students interested in academic careers. The most extensive of these programs, the ADEA Leadership Institute is a year-long program that each year gives up to 21 dental and allied dental faculty the opportunity to develop and strengthen the leadership skills needed to take on additional administrative responsibilities at their institutions.
An additional dimension of faculty development was addressed when, in 2003, the ADEA President’s Commission on Mentoring issued a report to help dental schools develop mentoring programs. One goal of these programs is to show students the rewards of an academic career and provide guidance to them.
Over the past five years, the number of faculty vacancies has remained relatively stable. As ADEA continues to monitor this and other trends in the dental workforce through its annual surveys, the Association is committed to continuing to develop programs and resources to ensure an adequate future supply of faculty to educate our future dental and allied dental healthcare providers.