Bulletin of Dental Education

Highlights from the 2012 ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition

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Do You Tweet, Friend, or Get LinkedIn? The Impact of Social Networking on Dental Education

On Sunday afternoon, Rachel K. Henry, RDH, M.S., presented a session titled, “Do You Tweet, Friend, or Get LinkedIn? The Impact of Social Networking on Dental Education.” This session took a closer look at the role social networking plays in dental education. An Associate Professor at The Ohio State University, Prof. Henry noted that today many students communicate not only with each other but also with the world around them through social media.  

The discussion in this session was lively as participants—both educators and students—shared their experiences with social media in the classroom. Topics included social media professionalism and policies, as well as social media’s relation to recruitment and admissions, and its effectiveness as a form of communication. 

Prof. Henry explained social media’s unique ability to allow users to have two-way communication and create and respond to information. As attendees learned during the session, the opportunities for interaction with social media are endless.  

Social media, as it relates to student recruitment and admissions, provides an additional way to engage with prospective students. Schools should make their social networking information easily visible and be ready to interact and respond. Prof. Henry said, “You need to make it easy to use so people can get the most out of it.”  

Online reputations and social media etiquette were popular discussion topics among attendees. Prof. Henry stressed the importance of maintaining a positive online reputation, noting that students should be especially careful since many schools are now evaluating social media presence in the admissions process.  

You can  access Prof. Henry’s presentation online  and connect with her on Twitter @osurach.

Engaging in Better Team Leadership: How to Overcome Team Dysfunction

Inspired by Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, this interactive presentation focused on team effectiveness and leadership in dental education by examining why teams are dysfunctional and fail to reach their full potential.  

The presenters, David D. Rolf, II, D.M.D., M.S., and Alexander Carroll, D.D.S., both of Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine-Arizona, pointed out that dental education is a rewarding, but challenging team endeavor. The team work aspect of dental education is essential to being productive, and, working together, each contributor accomplishes more.  

Learning how to identify and discuss why teams succeed and fail proved to be a highlight of this well-attended session. A team health assessment complemented the presentation, and each attendee had the opportunity to score the effectiveness of his or her team and working environment. The presenters encouraged the attendees to engage their teams, both to iron out dysfunctions to create better work experiences and to accomplish more.

When team members use teamwork to tackle a problem together, they can make great achievements and overcome extraordinary obstacles. A quote used in the presentation especially resonated with the audience, “To improve the team, improve yourself.” 

Dr. Rolf asked attendees, “Why are great teams so rare?” Teams are dysfunctional because people are inherently dysfunctional. Creating a good working environment involves change and a lot of work to overcome dysfunction. As Dr. Rolf pointed out, making just a 20% change can make an 80% improvement.  

Productive teams possess these qualities: trust, positive attitudes, discipline, accountability, high standards, open and honest communication, ethics, professionalism, and willingness to change. The members of truly cohesive teams trust each other, engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas, commit to decisions and plans of action, hold one another accountable for delivering on plans, and focus on collective results. 

Dr. Carroll asked the group whether teamwork or talent is more important for the success of the team and how skill and attitude contribute to a positive working environment. As he pointed out, it is often ordinary players with exceptional attitudes that are the best components of a team. 

The presenters encouraged attendees to know what factors—autonomy, self-direction, mastery, purpose, money, etc.—motivate their teams

The Team Health Assessment revealed several major themes:  

  • Trust is the foundation of teamwork.
  • Inefficient teams have a fear of healthy conflict: Lack trust, can’t confront each other, can’t openly disclose opinions, back channel comments, separate alliances within team, boring unproductive meetings, critical topics are ignored.
  • Dysfunctional teams have a lack of commitment: uncertainty and indecision, cohesive teams must have trust, compromises team performance and results.
  • Avoidance of accountability: low standards, team leader spends additional time on corrective action with entire team, team feels conflict, team members and top performers become resentful, morale and productivity suffer.
  • Compromised results: individual needs ahead of the team needs, see their success as more important, should achieve meaningful results, don’t prepare for failure, do what it takes to get it done.

The presenters offered advice for how to improve teams such as: 

  • Creating strategies for addressing low trust: be a leader, demonstrate integrity, be more transparent, don’t micromanage, train then trust, have genuine appreciation and value others.
  • Admitting mistakes and weaknesses.
  • Addressing a lack of healthy conflict: encourage, set rules, don’t take things personally, draw out unresolved issues, use the Thomas-Kilman Instrument conflict assessment tool.
  • Engaging in productive conflict will ensure teams have lively meetings.
  • Avoiding a lack commitment: disagree and commit, establish clear, rigid deadlines, honor lapsed deadlines with discipline.
  • Working on dysfunctions and build trust.

Going Dental: Students Find Solid Advice and Opportunities to Connect in Orlando

By Nicole Fauteux

The third annual ADEA GoDental Workshop and Recruitment Fair for PreDental Students and Advisors drew a record 470 attendees from Florida and the surrounding states for workshops, application tips, and the chance to meet with more than 40 representatives of dental schools and related organizations. 

Evelyn Lucas-Perry, D.D.S., M.P.H., ADEA Vice President for Students, Residents and Fellows, kicked off the event with a keynote address. The recent graduate of the University of Michigan bragged a little bit about her alma mater and gave her audience a whirlwind tour of the profession as a whole. Touching on several topics—including various reasons for entering dentistry, educational pathways, the nine dental specialties, and current issues facing the profession—Dr. Lucas-Perry’s words covered a lot of ground before coming to rest on the conference’s overall theme—engage—and its relevance in her life. 

“When I first entered dental school," she told the audience, "I thought I would stay in Michigan and work with my mom [who is also a dentist], maybe open a second practice or specialize in prosthodontics." But over time, Dr. Lucas-Perry reached out to others and engaged in opportunities that changed her worldview. Today she is committed to a career in public health, which she is launching as a research fellow with the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, one of the National Institutes of Health. 

Her advice to future dental students? "You need multiple mentors who can give you a perspective on where you want to be, both inside and outside of dentistry,” she told the young people in the crowd. “The only way to find out what your passion is,” she added, “is to engage. And when you engage, you invest in yourself. That's the biggest investment you can make.” 

ADEA President Leo E. Rouse, D.D.S., reiterated her message during a brief appearance. "Seek out a mentor. Study hard," he urged the students, while adding that, in his view, their very presence at the event promises a bright future. 

The event offered students ample ways to connect. In addition to the 40 dental schools in attendance, representatives of student associations, government programs, and ADEA corporate sponsors were on hand. Attendees also had the opportunity to hear from current dental students and graduates of the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP) and to ask questions about their experiences. 

During the formal part of the program, a panel of seasoned admissions officers shared tips for a successful application. These ranged from cosmetic issues (interviewees should dress conservatively) to practical concerns (and wear shoes they can walk in) to insider perspectives on the thinking behind their decisions on applicants. 

Eugenia E. Mejia, Ph.D., M.A., M.Ed., of the New York University College of Dentistry told the students, "Admissions officers have a huge responsibility to the population in general. We’re recruiting health care providers.” Marla Frohlinger, M.H.S.A., of Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine echoed this view in her remark that, “Schools are looking for compassionate, hard-working, self-motivated leaders who can function in difficult situations.” Sandra C. Bolívar, J.D., of the University of Southern California Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry put it another way. "Our goal is not to admit you," she said. "Our goal is to be sure that if you are admitted, you are successful." 

Attendees also benefited from the advice of independent student loan consultant Paul S. Garrard, M.B.A. While managing to make the complexity of various options remarkably comprehensible, Mr. Garrard introduced students to the issues they will confront in financing a dental education. Among his key messages: "Dental education is an expensive but affordable and worthwhile endeavor." He also shared some good news for those who take the plunge into student debt. “Word on the street,” he said, “is that most dental school graduates are able to manage their student loan debt successfully.”

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