Going vertical

January 14th, 2016

TAMBCD faculty examine potential curriculum changes during annual retreat

Vertical integration is a buzzword in dental education and, as such, was the focus of discussion during the 2016 Faculty Retreat on Jan. 7 at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry.

So what is a vertically integrated curriculum? It’s one that interweaves clinical skills and knowledge into the basic science years, later reinforcing and continuing to teach basic science during the clinical years.

“This enhances the relevance of everything else they are being taught,” said Dr. Paul Dechow, Regents Professor and chair of biomedical sciences, who presented the topic during the retreat. It also leads to improved motivation and satisfaction, if what the students are learning is more relevant to what they may be doing in the clinic, he added.

Another benefit: Increased cooperation between disciplines, as partnerships between clinicians and basic scientists are a hallmark of vertical integration.

TAMBCD’s current curriculum comprises two years of basic science and preclinical course work followed by two years of clinical training. A vertical curriculum, by comparison, weaves both components together throughout all four years of dental school.

A number of dental schools throughout the country have a vertically integrated curriculum, including the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, which utilizes upper- and lowerclassmen partnerships, where first- and second-year-students assist third- and fourth-year students in the clinic and with treatment planning up to two days per week.

Next steps, said faculty development director Dr. Lavern Holyfield, will include an in-depth curriculum review and assessment of the infrastructure changes and resources necessary to transition to a vertical curriculum.

Other topics discussed during the faculty development event included:

  • the transition to ExamSoft for electronic administration of exams;
  • the use of ePortfolios in addressing dental and dental hygiene accreditation standards and documenting student competence;
  • treatment planning updates; and
  • progress on integrating critical thinking opportunities into the TAMBCD curriculum.

— Jennifer Fuentes