UW Today

August 17, 2011

Ceremony marks dental students transition to clinical care

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

Dr. Beatrice Gandara of Dentistrys Department of Oral Medicine helps third-year student Camille Wahl put on her clinical coat.

Dr. Beatrice Gandara of Dentistrys Department of Oral Medicine helps third-year student Camille Wahl put on her clinical coat.Steve Steinberg

“Youve spent some time in clinic already, assisting the third-year and fourth-year students. Now youll be the ones who actually perform the procedures,” Interim Dean Tim DeRouen told the students as faculty, family members and friends looked on in Hogness Auditorium.

The ceremony, which has been held annually since 2005, signifies a milestone in the dental students training. In contrast to the medical model, in which students do not provide significant patient care until completing four years of school and beginning an internship, dental students take on that role in their third year of school. After graduating and passing board examinations at the end of fourth year, they are considered qualified to practice on their own, although many still pursue residency training in specialty fields of practice.

For the first time, the ceremony included members of Dentistrys new international DDS program, in which licensed foreign dentists join the third-year class to obtain a U.S. dental degree. The five international students began the program this spring with intensive course work and will now share the same training with classmates who started dental school here.

After putting on their clinical coats, the students, led by class president Philip Matson, repeated a pledge to:

  • Conduct themselves with integrity by upholding and promoting ethical ideals and standards.
  • Demonstrate compassion, empathy, and understanding for patients and colleagues.
  • Aspire to leadership through initiative and professional conduct.
  • Maintain a high level of competence through their commitment to learning.

“Think about what it means when these patients come to you for treatment,” DeRouen told the students. “They dont see you primarily as a student – they see you as a health-care provider. … It means you have to project the proper image of professionalism and ethics every minute youre with patients.”

Dr. John Wataha of the Department of Restorative Dentistry was the keynote speaker at the transition ceremony.

Dr. John Wataha of the Department of Restorative Dentistry was the keynote speaker at the transition ceremony.Steve Steinberg

“Growth comes from challenges, and sometimes challenges are very hard. Clinic will test you and stress you. Things will go wrong – but youll learn from it. Youll have to use and apply what youve learned in the first two years to get through it.

“In clinic, you must confront the fact that youre human. You have to learn from your errors, and its dangerous to ignore the lessons those errors teach us. The key is to take those errors and honestly self-evaluate – look in the mirror, accept what you did wrong, and move on.
“You have to learn about yourself. … Youll learn about the diversity of human experience. Some of it will offend you or anger you or scare you.” He urged students: “Resist judging your patients too harshly or too quickly. … In realizing your humanity, in realizing there isnt that much difference between yourself and the patients you treat, you will serve them better.”