Guest Perspective

Reflections on a Roadmap for Change

Karen F. Novak, D.D.S., M.S., Ph.D., Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies, and Interim Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, University of Kentucky College of Dentistry

Change is difficult, but even as an individual faculty member I can make a difference. This idea seems self-evident today, but I did not see it that way-nor, perhaps, did many of you-when the ADEA Commission on Change and Innovation in Dental Education (ADEA CCI) was first established in 2005.

Since that time ADEA CCI has commissioned a series of articles to address a variety of issues in dental education. This collection, published in the Journal of Dental Education (JDE) between October 2005 and February 2009, is now available in a single volume, Beyond the Crossroads: Change and Innovation in Dental Education. As I made the decision to become involved in change, I found these articles to be an excellent resource.

I recently shared my reflections on what I have gained from these writings in the JDE, and I would like to share some of those thoughts with you now.

This series has influenced my perspectives about my role and priorities as a dental school faculty member and my own career plans and future directions. From the very first article I gained a new appreciation for the commitment ADEA is making in providing tools and resources for implementing change. The second article in the series, "The Case for Change in Dental Education," alerted me to how desperately these resources were needed.

Having spent several years as a faculty member, I had often heard discussions on the significance of the findings of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report Dental Education at the Crossroads: Challenges and Change. This report was always cited as the landmark publication that should have served as a catalyst for change in dental education. As such, I assumed that significant change was occurring at the national level. After all, we had moved to competency-based education, worked to improve integration of basic and clinical sciences, and developed and implemented better teaching and assessment methods to promote critical thinking and life-long learning. To realize that it was still necessary to make the "case for change" 11 years after publication of the IOM report was startling. I realized that while the IOM report provided the rationale for change, perhaps it did not provide a "roadmap" for accomplishing change. This is what ADEA CCI is trying to do.

After reading the first two articles in the series, I decided that although creating change is difficult, I would try to be an agent of change at two levels-first, in my own individual teaching and mentoring and, second, in our institutional curriculum evaluation. The information in Beyond the Crossroads provided a knowledge base and also helped me realize that change does not have to be earth-shattering or even hugely innovative. Even if what we do as individual faculty members in our courses most likely will not transform an entire curriculum, it can be a step toward incremental change that may ultimately have a broader impact.

In the bigger picture of institutional change and innovation, many articles were important to me because they provided information about principles that are critical in shaping the dental curriculum of the future. I have been fortunate to have been given an opportunity to put these principles in place by serving as interim Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at my institution. In this role I am chairing a curriculum task force that has been charged with evaluating our current curriculum and developing recommendations for future directions. I have already learned that curriculum evaluation and revision are complicated tasks and that the very words "change" and "innovation" are not always regarded as necessary or positive.

The October 2008 JDE article "Managing Change in Dental Education: Is There a Method to the Madness?" has been an especially valuable resource as I try to understand the issues related to organizational change. This article has helped me put curriculum change in the broad context of organizational change, where basic concepts of organizational development are important. Overall, Beyond the Crossroads has provided me with an excellent overview of the issues being addressed by ADEA CCI as it develops a roadmap for change. In doing so, these articles have served as an essential resource as I become more involved in change and innovation at my own institution.

They also contain a wide range of messages that will resonate with other dental educators. Topics run the gamut and include cultural transformation, assessment, faculty development, generational differences, work-life balance, and mentoring. You may access the individual JDE articles online by logging in at www.adea.org, or you may purchase the Beyond the Crossroads volume at https://access.adea.org/adeassa/ecssashop.show_product_detail?p_product_serno=278.

These are both challenging and exciting times in dental education. The issues facing us as dental educators, while not new, remain of great importance as we strive to prepare our students to be the practitioners and dental academicians of the future and to maintain our dental schools as financially viable academic institutions. The work of ADEA CCI has provided our community with the makings of a useful roadmap for addressing these issues as we begin the process of innovative change in dental education.