Educator Spotlight - Fall 2010

Meghan Dubois, University of Michigan
Dr. William V. Giannobile, advisor
It all started for Meghan Dubois when she decided to take part in the University of Michigan's (UM) Scholars Program in Dental Leadership. For her capstone project in the program, she developed a rotation in clinical research with Dr. William V. Giannobile of the school's Michigan Center for Oral Health Research (MCOHR), where she had volunteered as an undergrad. The course Meghan developed consists of topic presentations, literature reviews led by faculty and scholars from health disciplines throughout the university, observation of patient encounters within clinical trials, and attendance at a research team meeting. The course was approved last December, and with the enthusiastic support of Dr. Marilyn S. Lantz, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, the faculty elected to make it part of the required curriculum for third-year students beginning in fall 2010.

In Meghan's view, the exposure to bench top research that most dental students receive is not enough. "For me," she says, "just understanding the process of clinical research helped me to be more critical of procedures and to better evaluate scientific literature. Being exposed to this aspect of dentistry also helped me get beyond the mentality that dentistry is just about seeing patients."

Last spring, Meghan and Dr. Giannobile piloted the rotation with a group of volunteers to refine their curriculum. Surveys conducted before and after the rotation found that these participants increased their ability to analyze a clinical trial and developed greater confidence in their knowledge of clinical research. To learn more, contact Dr. Giannobile at

Daniel Hammer, University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry
Dr. Nader A. Nadershahi, advisor
As student body president, California Trustee to the American Student Dental Association (ASDA), and ASDA liaison to two other national groups, Daniel Hammer has traveled around the country meeting with other dental student leaders. These experiences have convinced him that dentists are going to be viewed as leaders by their patients, the dental team, and the community-whether they are prepared for leadership or not. In response, he is on a mission to make sure that dental schools address the significant role dentists play as leaders.

Last month, Daniel launched the Dugoni Practical Leadership Initiative (DPLI), a series of six monthly workshops and three speaker sessions. Student participation in the DPLI pilot is voluntary, but in a recent survey 94% of University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry students said they would or maybe would participate if such a program were offered. In fact, interest is so high that there is talk of possibly offering a minor in leadership in the years ahead.

In the meantime, Daniel's goal for DPLI "is not to create the future president of ADEA, but to create dental students with the leadership skills needed to lead in their practice and community. The emphasis of the program is to instill practical knowledge in students that can be applied immediately."

Daniel has identified eight leadership programs currently active in U.S. dental schools, three of which have been described in academic journals. He has just submitted an article to the Journal of the American College of Dentists about the new role of the dental student as a leader within dentistry.

To learn more, see Daniel's poster at the 2011 ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition or contact him at

James Han, University of California, San Francisco
Dr. Linda L. Angin and Dr. Arthur Miller, advisors
In 2008, James Han approached Dr. Linda L. Angin in Oral Radiology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), about introducing cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) to other students. She was supportive of the idea but, as James quickly learned, the school's budget would not cover the high cost of the proprietary software used to read CBCT scans.

Undeterred, James sought out free software available through Hitachi America (AVIA) that allows the school's computers to read the CBCT data. With the help of faculty advisor Dr. Arthur Miller, he then developed a radiology rotation that introduces UCSF students to CBCT and provides them with a broader view of dental radiology.

With the help of his two faculty advisors and another faculty member, Dr. John Huang, James has published a manual with step-by-step instructions for reading and evaluating CBCT scans as they relate to caring for patients with unique conditions (e.g., impacted canine teeth, mandibular lesions, or TMD). As a result, all UCSF students can avail themselves of the opportunity to learn about this state-of-the-art technology.

James and his collaborators are submitting an article about this initiative to a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Dental Education. He is now a resident in oral and maxillofacial surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. To learn more, contact Dr. James Han at

Aram Kim and Dr. Samuel Koo, Harvard School of Dental Medicine
Dr. Nadeem Karimbux, advisor
Taking part in research may be standard fare at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, but even after that undergraduate requirement is met, a succession of predoctoral students has chosen to investigate whether haptic technology can be used to better prepare dental students for clinical practice.

When Dr. Nadeem Karimbux invited students to pursue this research opportunity in 2008, second-year student Aram Kim stepped forward, as did junior faculty member, Dr. Samuel Koo. Together they developed a hypothesis that using a haptic device in a preclinical exercise would improve manual dexterity. Then they set about implementing their study in summer 2009. The first round of data collection did not show significant results so they refined the experiment, integrating CAD-CAM technology to get more sensitive measures. Dr. Koo expects to begin analyzing this new data this fall.

Dr. Koo continues to coordinate the project, now as a resident in periodontology. "If you are involved in developing educational projects," he says, "you need to rely on students to help shape the methodology." He believes that approaching research as both a student and an educator has given him a unique perspective.

Two new predoctoral students have joined the team, and a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital is collaborating with them on a related avenue of research. If their work can demonstrate a relationship between the use of a haptic device and improved manual dexterity, they think the technology could prove useful for entrance or board exams. To learn more, contact Dr. Samuel Koo at

Gabriel Proulx, University of Pittsburgh
Dr. Heiko Spallek, advisor
What happens when you introduce group-based learning with regularly changing groups into an already complex curriculum? At the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine, the curriculum committee members remember all too well their struggles to produce a user-friendly calendar that could adequately capture where their students needed to be when. Fortunately for everyone, a first-year student decided to take things into his own hands, and today the entire school is reading off the same virtual page-a Google calendar that can be accessed directly from anywhere on the Web or indirectly through the school's intranet.

Student Gabriel Proulx says he spent almost seven hours creating a first-semester calendar for himself when he decided he might as well spend a few more and make the calendar available to everyone in his class. He describes his fellow students as "excited and grateful" when he posted the calendar on the Web.

"We already have enough stress," he says, "without having to worry about where we're going and remembering when tests are. The calendar allows us to focus on what's important, rather than on where we need to be."

Dr. Spallek agreed and has adopted Gabriel's model for the entire school. Each class now has a Google calendar, and a fifth calendar tracks schoolwide events. Each class president and a delegate are permitted to add and edit events. Unlike their predecessors, the new calendars can sync with students' mobile devices and are compatible with both PC and Mac computers. To learn more, contact Dr. Heiko Spallek at

Brittney M. Wise, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Dr. Michael S. McCracken, advisor
University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)student pass rates on Part 1 of the National Dental Board Exams (NDBE) hit an all-time high last year, thanks to the efforts of a handful of students led by Brittney M. Wise. UAB had recently introduced a new curriculum, but had yet to decide how to conduct its NDBE review.

"As the time drew near, the instructors had something in mind," says Brittney, "but we looked at the schedule and suggested that we redesign it and gear it toward what we felt we needed." The faculty agreed, and the students began by surveying their upper-class peers to find out which study tools they had found most useful. The consensus pointed to First Aid for the NDBE Part 1, a popular test prep study guide. Working with Dr. Dennis J. Pillion, the students created a course modeled in part on the First Aid book. They also brought back their favorite lecturers, who built questions into their PowerPoint presentations that the students could answer using an automated response system.

Of course, some credit for UAB students' NDBE pass rate might also go to the school's new curriculum. Dr. Michael S. McCracken, Associate Dean for Education and Curriculum Development, has been evaluating it throughout the implementation phase. Brittney reports that he surveys the students following each course, and that most of the major changes that students have suggested have been implemented. To learn more, contact Brittney at

Jacqueline H. Yoon, University of Kentucky
Ms. Sandra D. Challman and Dr. Pamela Stein, advisors
Jackie Yoon was first introduced to the virtual reality website Second Life as one of the University of Kentucky's (UK) Summer Research Fellows. Her mentors, UK's Curriculum Development Director Sandy Challman and Dr. Jennifer Bruekner, asked her to test the potential and student-friendliness of a Second Life module designed to teach anatomy to nursing students. Since then, her summer project has sparked new projects, including a plan for an undergraduate three-credit course, and Jackie, an officer on the ADEA Council of Students, Residents, and Fellows, has a new attitude toward what she calls "the conservative world of education."

"I would never have imagined how soon new ways of thinking and teaching could be applied to actual education," she explains. "I give credit to people who are not afraid to try out different methods of teaching if they think they can better educate students, and also to proactive students who try to make education more interesting and challenging."

In the near future, she hopes to use Second Life as a platform to create a virtual lab where dental students can practice administering local anesthesia. Dr. Pamela Stein, who previously developed a course to teach intraoral injections to residents in emergency medicine, is glad to see Jackie seizing the interactive possibilities of Second Life to extend her work.

Additional information about the University of Kentucky Second Life Island may be found at To learn more, contact Sandy Challman at