Bulletin of Dental Education

Reflections on the ADEA Enid A. Neidle Scholar-in-Residence Program

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Mary McNallyExactly 12 months ago, I was preparing for my three-month stay in Washington, DC, to undertake research proposed for my 2016 ADEA Enid A. Neidle Scholar-in-Residence Program award. I could not have envisioned a more enriching or delightful experience.

I had long been interested in the ADEA Enid A. Neidle Scholar-in-Residence Program opportunity, particularly as it relates to gender and professionalism issues impacting women in dental schools, the dental profession, the broader health professions and academia. Relevance of the need for this type of scholarship came to bear on me personally in the wake of a widely publicized social media (Facebook) gender-based misconduct scandal that occurred at my home institution.

In addition to the devastating direct harm experienced by many women resulting from this Facebook incident, it is impossible to overstate the fallout and negative impact it had on academic and organized dentistry in my region. As a woman who is a member of both academia and the dentistry profession, I began to question whether gender-based misconduct, such as we had witnessed, is symptomatic of a growing disinhibited and insidious sexist culture within dental schools. And if so, how are we managing it? As a Scholar-in-Residence I was able to take the time to critically reflect on these issues and undertake a research study to examine how gender-based misconduct is characterized and addressed within academic dental institutions and their broader university settings. Together with my residency mentor, Pamela Zarkowski, M.P.H., J.D., we are addressing questions about the relevance of gender-based misconduct to professionalism, academic performance and promotion, and broader university misconduct requirements and policy regarding student behaviors. 

The time spent at the ADEA offices in Washington, DC, provided an invaluable opportunity for me to vet research ideas, methodological approaches and preliminary findings with leaders and experts in dental education. I was always welcomed for a chat, whether it involved a formally scheduled meeting or a simple chin-wag at the water cooler. Beyond that, ADEA colleagues and staff were more than generous with ideas for what to do in DC. Every spare minute was spent exploring neighborhoods (commuter bikes were everywhere), markets, Smithsonian museums, the Library of Congress, live theatre and—my very favorite spot—the Textile Museum, where I attended many lectures and exhibitions. 

I have returned to my own campus having grown both personally and professionally through my experience as an ADEA Enid A. Neidle Scholar-in-Residence. It has become clear to me that in this rapidly evolving social media era, the relevance to professionalism of behaviors occurring outside “professional work” will become increasingly challenging for educators and administrators. Based on feedback I have received over the past 12 months, others agree. Therefore, this policy research is both timely and novel. Not only will the findings be informative to dental educators and administrators responsible for assessment and management of dental students’ professional conduct, but it is my hope that it will create a new area of discourse in dental education. This is already coming to fruition where logical next steps are unfolding through a recent manuscript submission to the Journal of Dental Education and the acceptance of a forthcoming 90-minute workshop proposal, Connecting Gender/Diversity-based Misconduct to Professionalism Standards in Dental Education at the 2018 ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition in March. See you there!

For more information and to download an application for the 2018 ADEA Enid A. Neidle Scholar-in-Residence Program, visit the ADEA website. Applications are due November 1, 2017. 

Submitted by Mary McNally, M.Sc., D.D.S., M.A., Dalhousie University Faculty of Dentistry, 2016 ADEA Enid A. Neidle Scholar-in-Residence

Published on October 11, 2017

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