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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 65-67

Postgraduate dental education: Training the future specialist and clinical leader of tomorrow

Department of Oral and Craniofacial Health Sciences, College of Dental Medicine, University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

Date of Submission07-Mar-2022
Date of Acceptance10-Mar-2022
Date of Web Publication20-Apr-2022

Correspondence Address:
A R Samsudin
Prof. A. R. Samsudin, Department of Oral and Craniofacial Health Sciences, College of Dental Medicine, University of Sharjah
United Arab Emirates
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/abhs.abhs_15_22

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How to cite this article:
Samsudin A R. Postgraduate dental education: Training the future specialist and clinical leader of tomorrow. Adv Biomed Health Sci 2022;1:65-7

How to cite this URL:
Samsudin A R. Postgraduate dental education: Training the future specialist and clinical leader of tomorrow. Adv Biomed Health Sci [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Aug 18];1:65-7. Available from: http://www.abhsjournal.net/text.asp?2022/1/2/65/343627

The ease of obtaining accurate health information among our global community in this digital age has created in-depth awareness in medical knowledge, which was not commonly available to the layman in the past. This has led to a change in the community behavior whereby patients prefer to seek dental consultation from an expert whom they believe could attend to their health complain rather than meeting a general dental practitioner. This paradigm shift poses a challenge to the healthcare system to meet the needs of our community in both public and private health care, and postgraduate dental education needs reform to satisfy the community needs with the highest ethics and professionalism.

The old way of dental specialist education and training is not relevant anymore. Postgraduate dental trainees in the past were placed in busy clinics and overworked daily to gain high-level technical skills with “loose” training syllabi and little scientific-based knowledge, and their training finally ended with a high-stake examination that awarded them a specialist diploma or degree. No doubt these highly skilled practitioners are able to perform well in their specialty field, but further development of their career is hindered by the lack of sound scientific foundations of clinical dentistry that is needed to progress in this era of rapid scientific revolution.

Current postgraduate dental specialization programs are tied to both academic and practice knowledge and skills with emphasis on evidence-based clinical decision making. At the University of Sharjah, we run a 3-year full-time clinical program in four dental specialties, namely Master of Dental Surgery (MDS) in Prosthodontics, Endodontics, and Oral Surgery. The programs are designed to encompass all the necessary elements of specialty practice that include knowledge, skills, attitude, clinical leadership, and managerial know-how. Our robust curriculum that contains all elements of advance practice is organized such that contemporary knowledge and new skills are introduced incrementally in the endeavor to train a competent specialist. Generally, clinical problem-solving sessions may begin with theoretical instructions, followed by skills laboratory simulation sessions using models and ex vivo sheep specimen, and later proceed with cadaveric workshop training and finally clinical practice in patients. This is what it takes today to train highly skilled dental specialists who are competent and safe, while at the same time demonstrating a tactful and sensitive behavior toward patients’ needs.

In order to achieve these goals, the MDS programs at University of Sharjah strongly emphasize on student-centered learning whereby the postgraduate students continuously create and build new knowledge within the structured curriculum, directing them toward “learning by discovery.” Based on the philosophy of “assessment drives learning,” our graduate students undergo continuous evaluation throughout the program and receive timely feedback that is critical in enhancing their progress. Present-day graduate medical education emphasizes on problem solving in real clinical settings, which bring us to the importance of workplace-based assessments (WPbA). “Direct Observation of Procedural Skills” (DOPS) is the main WPbA tool for MDS clinical training programs at the University Dental Hospital Sharjah [1]. This powerful assessment tool suits every training situation and stimulates the clinical instructor to observe all aspects of practice of the graduate student and gain adequate insights into the specific training needs of each student and generating their feedback and reflection. Students are assessed on work that they are doing at frequent specific time points, and performance is included into their final grading score. It is a continuous assessment of progress and competence throughout the entire duration of training. This method allows a broader range of activities and procedures to be assessed, appropriate to the stage of training since dental knowledge alone (as assessed by examination score) is no longer a good sole predictor of individual performance, humanistic qualities, and communication skills. The assessment using DOPS comprehensively covers the core science, hand skills, and soft humanistic qualities of students. Therefore, the MDS assessment system at the University of Sharjah is doing away from traditional high-stakes examination and instead runs continuous assessment that genuinely reflects the competencies of the students, in alignment with many other international clinical programs. This learning method has received wide acceptance from our students.

The specialist training program must deliver instructions using up-to-date science and technology. The University Dental Hospital Sharjah is an accredited ultra-modern oral healthcare center that houses all dental specialties under one roof. It is a paper-less Dental Hospital and equipped with full digital dentistry solutions technology. The Dental Hospital is directly connected to a 325-bedded University Hospital that may provide medical, surgical, and anesthetic services required for advance dental in-patient care. Besides on-campus healthcare facility, the University of Sharjah established a vibrant out-reach community dental program through its mobile dental clinic services. Postgraduate students play a major role in this campus–community partnership in the development of oral healthcare for UAE by delivering high-quality dental care to the door steps of the needy community.

Evidence-based dental practice should be cultivated through hands-on research experience [2]. Formal participation in research is an integral and often mandatory component of clinical training programs. A research component leading to a dissertation is required in our syllabus for the partial fulfillment of the MDS program. Students have the freedom to work in both clinical and fundamental research areas with research funding support from the College of Graduate Studies. Highly skilled technicians and research associates are available at the advance material science labs, cell and molecular biology lab, and dental biomaterial lab to supervise the students’ research work.

Postgraduate dental education and training need high-quality trainers to run the robust full-time training schedule and matching with the best students admitted into the MDS program [3]. The University of Sharjah assembled the best academic team comprising of dental specialists from diverse training background, with mixed clinical experience and individual clinical and scientific interest. These broad arrays of knowledge, experience, and interest from clinical instructors are shared with our graduate students and help provide richness and maturity to our MDS programs. It is reflected in our patient-centered philosophy that encompasses holistic approach to patient care, interdisciplinary treatment planning, and managing the patient instead of concentrating on the oral disease process. There is a heavy emphasize on training the trainers through continuous faculty development program instituted and funded by the University of Sharjah that ensures our faculty are continuously updated and trained in contemporary practice to remain competitive in the international arena.

Postgraduate dental training program is worthwhile, though very challenging. It is labor-intensive, technologically demanding, highly regulated, and costly. Present-day graduate students are much more intensively supervised than in the past [4]. Our programs shall create future specialty leaders for the dental profession. However, the future role of our graduates will not only be limited to consulting and treating complex dental cases for which they have been trained for, but they may be appointed in many professional committees such as those related to antibiotic use, infection control, morbidity, and mortality studies, privileging and credentialing as well as regulating healthcare practice for the country! This aspect of training is less prepared in many graduate programs. The MDS program at the University of Sharjah is designed to meet these challenges, by working closely with Emirates Health Services and other health authorities to ensure that our graduates from this program meet the national aspirations as a specialist and clinical leader. At the same time, the training syllabi and content are continuously reviewed to match other international dental specialty training programs from North America, Europe, and Australasia. Further enquiry on MDS programs at the University of Sharjah may be channeled to [email protected]

Financial disclosure

Not applicable.

Conflict of interests

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Liu C. An introduction to workplace-based assessments. Gastroenterol Hepatol Bed Bench 2012;5:24-8.  Back to cited text no. 1
Laupland KB, Edwards F, Dhanani J. Determinants of research productivity during postgraduate medical education: A structured review. BMC Med Educ 2021;21:567.  Back to cited text no. 2
Fellow-Smith E, Beveridge E, Hogben K, Wilson G, Lowe J, Abraham R, et al. Training the trainers of tomorrow today—Driving excellence in medical education. BMJ Qual Improv Rep 2013;2:u201078.w715.  Back to cited text no. 3
Walsh K. The future of postgraduate training. Pan Afr Med J 2014; 19:333.  Back to cited text no. 4


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