Progress notes

Bridging college and profession through continuing education
January 10th, 2019

Dr. Amerian SonesThe Office of Continuing Education at Texas A&M College of Dentistry is responsible for creating a multitude of learning opportunities and enrichment programs for dental professionals every year. With nearly 50 CE events, the department partners with annual lectureships and faculty development, providing the highest-quality CE credits to attendees. This represents at least one program a week, says Dr. Amerian Sones, director, whose department recently completed reaccreditation by the American Dental Association Continuing Education Recognition Program. Lifelong learning with the latest technology in dentistry continues to bring alumni back to the college.

“Bridging College and Profession” is the department’s slogan as its CE programs have ventured out of the lecture hall and into the clinic, a goal of Sones’ since assuming the position in 2012. Providing lecture, hands-on and actual clinical experience uniquely positions the department in the continuing education realm.

One such program, the seven-month Dental Implant Continuum, currently in its fifth year, has trained approximately 70 general dentists and four full-time faculty members in implant placement through work on more than 150 patients. The continuum has provided a venue for Institutional Review Board-approved clinical research, conducted through the CE office, focusing on 62 of the continuum’s patients. Two prosthodontics graduate students, Dr. Erika Miller and Dr. Christina Wang, will present the findings in March at the Academy of Osseointegration annual meeting in Washington, D.C., thanks in part to an AO Foundation Travel grant.

It’s all part of an end goal: to better serve professionals who want to receive continued education — faculty, students, dental auxiliaries and especially alumni. To begin the New Year, the Jan. 18 course on endodontics for the general practitioner was designed as a direct result of input from the 2015-2018 graduates, who were included in a direct-mail campaign informing thousands of Dallas-Fort Worth alumni about this opportunity.

Now, Sones shares more about her introduction to the dental school nearly two decades ago, the benefit of maintaining leadership roles in organized dentistry and just what’s on the horizon for continuing education at the college.

Tell us about your connection with the college long before you moved to Dallas.

The college became very well-known to me long before I ever moved to Dallas. Who would have guessed that the practice I acquired in 1999 was the practice of a 1978 Baylor College of Dentistry alumnus, Dr. Michael Parsons, who passed away unexpectedly in Santa Maria, California, and that I would later be here as a full-time faculty member? We never know what the future has in store for us. It’s still kind of serendipitous, and for this reason the college has and always will have a special place in my heart.

As I completed his cases and assumed the management of his office, I found Baylor College of Dentistry written on all the textbooks, scrubs and his instrument box. As a board-certified prosthodontist, I really appreciated the quality of work he left to be completed and the sincere respect and fondness his patients had for him. I felt very fortunate to have taken his place in a central coast town of 90,000, being the only specialist.

You’ve been quite active in the Academy of Osseointegration over the years. How do you think this involvement has prepared you for your current role?

My leadership roles in the Academy of Osseointegration have provided many managerial and organizational opportunities working with general dentists and specialists and learning the operations of a global organization. Continuing education requires similar leadership skills as a private practice except rather than patients coming to your office, you have dental professionals attending. Managing and balancing a budget and ensuring that productivity is met is important for our department, too. The academy has taught me about staying current with new trends in dentistry and the importance of organized dentistry.

What’s next for our CE program?

We have some new part-time staff coming our way with two dental hygiene alumni. Nina Matheney ’18 will help us expand our marketing footprint, delve into social media and create online courses, something that we could offer around the clock. Cheyenne Bond ’15 will handle course preparation and oversee the faculty development programs. Lori Todd, a 2011 graduate of Caruth, has been with us since the end of August and is learning quickly.

New to 2019, we aspire to provide CME — continuing medical education — credit though Texas A&M College of Medicine. This will permit us to award a credit letter to nurses, physicians, radiation oncologists, pathologists and other health professionals to enhance our interprofessional, collaborative efforts in continuing education. As the only maxillofacial prosthodontist at the Sammons Cancer Center since 2012, I hope to invite the head and neck team to our CE program on oral pathology and provide CME credit. This could ultimately impact patient outcomes positively as we collaborate on the diagnosis and treatment of oral and systemic diseases.

As we look into the future, the CE program will remain here on the sixth floor of this building. Our vision to continue with clinical hands-on courses in the AEGD clinic will bring more live patient programs. Our goal is that the next generation of dental professionals will look to the college for lifelong learning and return to sharpen and enhance their skills in a world-class facility using the latest technology, materials and equipment. As our local programs develop, we also have plans to expand into an international reputation as dental professionals travel to Dallas to gain education and knowledge. As you can see, continuing education has a bright future!

— Jennifer Fuentes