Pediatric selective course offers more hands-on experience

June 24th, 2022

Dr. Kerin L. Burdette

Dr. Kerin L. Burdette, clinical assistant professor in public health sciences and board certified pediatric dentist, thought that the college’s students could benefit from additional hands-on opportunities when it came to pediatric dentistry. While students already receive experience in the regular classrooms and labs, more practice is always useful. This motivated her to create a new selective course.

“I put together a pediatric dentistry selective course, with more lab and didactic information,” she says. “Basically it’s two parts. The first part is approximately five mini-seminars; they come prepared to talk and we hold discussions. The second part is labs. In the labs we go over basic pediatric restorative dentistry: Class II preps, stainless steel crown preps, seating crowns, etc.”

Dr. Alton McWhorter, department head of pediatric dentistry, supports students being offered a selective course that reinforces the pediatric material they were presented earlier in their dental education.

“I am pleased by the students’ interest in learning more about caring for this patient population,” he says.

Burdette says that her class was aimed for students pursuing a residency or who just wanted more practice. Burdette believed the selective course was important because she loves to teach and wanted to give students more opportunities to learn. She also learned of the desire to have more pediatric dental experiences from the students themselves. Several students have reached out to her over time, as recent graduates or soon-to-be graduates, with questions on different aspects of pediatric dentistry, she says.

An example of the lab stations used by students to get more hands-on experience

“So, the students are getting ready to graduate, and I thought ‘Man, this is kind of late. I really wish I could help them before they leave,’” Burdette says. “So that’s why I put the selective together.” Dr. Burdette’s educational research grant, “Preparing Predoctoral Students for Pediatric Dentistry Practice (or PPPP), helped fund the materials for the course.

Children can be challenging patients, she says, though she finds the profession fun and rewarding. Learning more about treating pediatric patients provides soon-to-be graduates with “an opportunity to give kids a good experience with their dentist and establish good oral health habits early in life,” Burdette says.

The first selective course took place this past spring semester, with ten D4 students. Dr. Burdette mentioned she could not have successfully completed this inaugural course without help from her fellow pediatric dentist colleagues Dr. Lolo Wong, Dr. Shirley Lewis, and Dr. Nina Ray. It was a wonderful experience, she says, though there were some challenges with having to change the schedule to make it work best for everyone involved.

Dr. Courtney Favaloro, class of 2022, participated in the course and says it improved her technical and communication skills immensely. The seminar portion of the class helped her learn not only why things are done a certain way in pediatric dentistry, but also how to talk to parents or others unfamiliar with dentistry in a way that makes sense. Favaloro also mentioned how she and her classmates bonded over the semester as a highlight of the class.

Members of the pediatric selective course enjoying a meal together

“I had such a great time in this course,” Favaloro says. “Not only did I learn a ton, but we had such an awesome group of students who were eager to learn while also having fun. On Wednesday evenings, we would all have dinner together as a group with Dr. Burdette before practicing in the sim lab for a couple of hours. It was such a great way to decompress from the week and enjoy each other’s company before getting to work!”

Burdette says that in future classes she hopes to increase lab time and class size.

“I look forward to leading the selective again,” Burdette says. “I just love pediatric dentistry, and I love sharing what I’ve learned, so that it can help someone else.”

— Caleb Vierkant