orthodontics 1985-90: a panel discussion

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  • Orthodontics 1985-90: A panel discussion

    Nicholas A. Di Salvo, D.D.S., Ph.D.* New York, N. Y.

    M y assignment on this panel is to discuss orthodontic education in the next decade. While to most of us orthodontic education means the traditional postdoctoral program, one must also consider predoctoral education, continuing education, and special programs in orthodontics, since all of these are interrelated.

    At the outset, let us realize that prediction is by nature chancy. Those of us who have tried to predict craniofacial growth know this full well. What I propose to do, therefore, is to identify some of the more powerful forces now bearing upon orthodontic education, to review the effect those forces have already had in the recent past, and to speculate on some of the possible consequences for the future.

    Even this modest attempt is fraught with substantial possibilities for error because, in todays world, pressures can change quite rapidly. Relatively inconsequential matters can suddenly loom large, formidable problems can melt away, and new, unthought-of dif- ficulties can be precipitated.

    Another hazard in prediction is ones own personal bias. Two individuals, observing the same factors, can often project to quite different conclusions based upon wishful thinking. This 1 have tried very hard to avoid. Therefore, my analysis does not necessarily reflect what I would like to see happen but, rather, what I believe will occur.

    The role of the university

    As we all know, orthodontic education in America began in the early part of this century on a preceptorship basis and evolved over the years to a university discipline. It might be useful, therefore, to recall some characteristics of a university.

    The functions of a university are usually identified as education, research, and service. While it is difficult to isolate any one of these functions, or to assign priorities, I believe that education (that is, the transmission of existing knowledge) must be considered a first priority. However, any university worthy of the name must place equal importance upon the gathering of new knowledge, or research. The obvious purpose of these activities is the third element, namely, service to mankind. Ideally, this service function should not be emphasized to the detriment of the other two. If carefully defined, it will not. However, as sometimes defined, it may seriously interfere with the educational process.

    For example, the treatment of patients in dental school clinics provides educational

    Presented at the annual meeting of the Northeastern Society of Orthodontists in Bermuda, Oct. 20, 1976.

    *Professor and Director of Orthodontics, Columbia University.

    OOW9416/78/0374-0305$00.50/O @ 1978 The C. V. Mosby CO. 305

  • 306 Di Saho Am. J. Orthod. September 1978

    benefits to students and service to patients and, incidentally, generates income. Ideally, these functions should complement each other. However, situations often arise in which they are in conflict. Traditionally, dental schools have given the educational function highest priority. Lately, pressures have developed to emphasize the delivery of more service and the generation of greater income from the school clinics. This can seriously interfere with maintenance of traditional standards of academic performance.

    The influence of the Federal Government

    Dentistry and orthodontics are integral parts of the health professions group. In all of the health professions, the service function may be defined as the delivery of high-quality health care to the public. Because of the great volume of real and imagined needs of the public in any segment of the health professions, government planners have intruded heavily into the doctor-patient relationship. This intrusion is now being felt in dental education and will probably be the single most important factor affecting dental education in the years ahead.

    The latest health manpower legislation contains some provisions which have impact on orthodontic education. For example, it specifies that, in order to qualify for capitation grants (money awards made to schools in the health professions for each predoctoral student enrolled, and upon which the deficit-ridden schools have become completely dependent), the dental schools must assure that 70 percent of new positions in dental postdoctoral programs will be in general dentistry or pedodontics. This continues to promote the Department of Health, Education and Welfare policy of increasing the num- ber of dentists produced to provide general dental services at the expense of specialty services.

    If this comes as a surprise to you, you should know that, originally, the bill contained provisions making capitation grants contingent upon such things as (I) the institution of a program in Training in Expanded Auxiliary Management (TEAM) and even prescribing in detail what the minimum expanded duties should be; (2) increasing predoctoral student enrollment, on top of increases formerly made to receive federal grants; (3) assuring that a minimum of 20 percent of first-year students would accept National Health Service Corps scholarships, which would obligate these students to practice for a period of years in certain designated dentist-shortage areas; (4) obliging students who did not enter the National Health Service Corps to pay back capitation grants to the Federal Government.

    These provisions, although removed in the final draft, may be expected to surface again in the near future, together with other requirements deemed by federal legislators and bureaucrats to be in the public interest. Another deleted provision of the bill called for the development of federal standards for licensure, relicensure, and continuing education for dentists.2

    This gives us some idea of the clout which the Federal Government has in influencing all health professions education. In fact, the Carnegie Council on Policy Studies in Higher Education, in a recent Study on Progress and Problems in Medical and Dental Educa- tion, stated that government requirements of the kind mentioned involve unwarranted interference with academic decisions of the schools and a degree of federal control over the allocation of health manpower that goes far beyond interference in any other field.3

    The net effect of Federal Government actions has been a negative one on specialty education. This force will undoubtedly continue unless a substantial proportion of dental rrhootc Ron nfford to take the nosition which the University of Oregon did recently. That

  • Volume 14 Number 3

    Orthodontics 198590 307

    institution, with the full backing of the Oregon State Legislature, decided to spurn the federal feeding trough in order to maintain some freedom of choice in deciding its future directions. No other institution has followed that lead as yet, and it is doubtful that any will be able to afford to do so.*

    It is interesting to note that the so-called private educational institutions, such as the one with which I am associated, which, in part, defend their existence by claiming freedom to be innovative and to act as a moderating influence in higher education against the dominance of public institutions, are the very ones now most dependent upon federal support.

    To summarize this aspect, I foresee a decline, in the next decade, in the extent of postdoctoral dental education in all of the specialties, pedodontics included, the last because preventive procedures are making significant inroads in decreasing the incidence of caries, the child population is decreasing, and the use of expanded-function auxiliaries seems assured.

    The influence of organized dentistry and organized dental education

    Now let us turn to the forces of organized dentistry and dental education-the Ameri- can Dental Association (ADA) and the American Association of Dental Schools (AADS). The ADA, by virtue of its accreditation powers, is beginning to exert its influence on orthodontic education, chiefly at the predoctoral level. About a year ago the Council on Dental Education of the ADA appointed an ad hoc committee consisting of two represen- tatives each from the AADS, the ADA, and the Council on Orthodontic Education of the AAO, to draft guidelines for predoctoral orthodontic education, which the committee did.

    These guidelines were then circulated to dental school deans and orthodontic depart- ment chairmen for comment. Many of them commented rather loudly. There was over- whelming opposition to the document because it apparently called for predoctoral or- thodontic education at a level of sophistication which differed from that hoped for in postdoctoral programs only in the acquisition of manipulative skills. When one considers that a modern postdoctoral program consists of about 3,000 hours, only 50 percent of which can be clinical (according to accreditation standards), this would appear to require 1,200 to 1,500 hours out of a total predoctoral curriculum of 4,000 hours. No orthodontic department chairman or dental school dean could, in his wildest imagination, conceive of a general dental curriculum which would allot 30 percent to 40 percent to orthodontics at this time.

    At a hearing scheduled by the Council on Dental Education at the AADS meeting in Miami early this year (1976), the ad hoc committee defended the guidelines by stating that they were only guidelines, not mandates, and that they believed the objectives could be met by a curriculum of 1.50 to 200 didactic hours (presumably any clinical time would be additional).

    As a result of this and other input, the guidelines have been revised into a more reasonable document which will be presented for adoption later this year.? It is important to emphasize that although these are only