Academic Dentistry and Teaching Opportunities in Dental Education

Academic Dentistry and Teaching Opportunities in Dental Education

The University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine has developed a three-tiered program for providing current dental students with exposure to and training in academic dentistry. The Academic Career Track Area of Concentration (ACT ARCO) is a two-year program that dental students can complete while they are working toward their degree at Pitt. The program aims to provide a solution to the national shortage of dental faculty by equipping students with skills necessary for the three pillars of an academic career: teaching, scholarship and service by introducing them to clinical and classroom teaching, engaging them in research and developing their leadership skills. Recognizing that the two-year commitment is not for every student, we offer most of the courses as electives to all upper level dental students who can choose their enrollment based on their interest and level of commitment. An informal lunch hour discussion series is offered to all students who want to learn about academic dentistry as a career option.

News about Pitt's Academic Dentistry programs

Read about our initial outcomes assessment: Zsuzsa Horvath, Sarah E. Albani, and Christine Wankiiri-Hale. Training Future Dentists for an Academic Career: A Three-Tiered Model.
J Dent Educ. 2016; 80:502-516
The University time reported in the “Research Notes ” that the article has been selected as one of the 2016 Top Articles in the Journal of Dental Education.  

Our paper was referenced in the editorial in the same issue:
"In this issue of the Journal of Dental Education, you will read about one dental school’s innovative approach that exchanges the pipeline model for a “stream” model. 6 These educators at the University of Pittsburgh understand that a more effective way for dental schools to grow their own future faculty is not by hoping a student is somehow motivated to enter a pipeline, but by creating a steady, flowing stream of opportunities—flexible enough for all students to take part in and visible so that all members of the academic community can be engaged. Rather than focusing solely on students themselves, this shift creates an overall climate in dental schools that valorizes academic careers and encourages students to pursue them.]"
"Based on this evaluation, the ADEA ADCFP was restructured in 2015 to address the overall climate for pursuing careers in academic dental institutions. If schools are to grow their own, the soil in which the plant grows needs nutrients. To that end, the new ADCFP focuses on 1) the institution rather than the student, to improve the climate; 2) the attractiveness and value of pursing an academic career, rather than addressing a faculty shortage (who wants to be told you should pursue a career in academia because no one else is!); and 3) robust interaction among the students, the faculty, and the overall institution. The ultimate goal is to create a positive and engaging experience for student mentees, while simultaneously creating as a hub an identifiable place in each institution for all students interested in pursuing academic dental careers. The Pittsburgh program described in this issue of the JDE reflects those same values."

Anthony M. Palatta. From Pipeline to Mainstream: Increasing the Number of Dental Students and Residents Pursuing Academic Careers.
J Dent Educ. 2016; 80:499-501

Ms. Sarah Albani, Class of 2020 and 2015 Summer Dean’s Scholar, received second place for the School of Dental Medicine Awards (A.K.A Dr. O. Jack Penhall Awards) for her poster presentation of “Training Future Dentists for an Academic Career: A Three-Tiered Model.” Ms. Albani also presented the poster  at the 2016 American Dental Education Association national meeting in Denver, Co. 

The University Times reported on the First Annual ACT ARCO Capstone Presentations, school’s first Academic Career Day Retreat funded by the ADEAGies Foundation, and a teleconferenced one day retreat in collaboration with the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Dentistry.
“The academic career track began with one teaching practicum course in 2013 that drew increasing interest in subsequent semesters. “Based on that experience, we got the green light to initiate the program,” says Horváth. “That helped engage the students’ interest in something bigger. We found that some of the students may be interested in a little bigger commitment … and a more structured curriculum. There’s a great need for dental education,” she adds. “There’s a shortage of dental educators in the field.” While half of Pitt’s dental medicine faculty members are part-time, often maintaining a private dental practice as their full-time occupation, the national faculty shortage “has not impacted us much except in achieving adequate diversity and prolonging recruitment,” says Horváth. Wankiiri-Hale and Horváth understand that their academic career-training program may produce many such part-time faculty. “That makes them even more robust in the clinic,” Wankiiri-Hale says, since such part-time faculty members are in touch with the latest dentistry and students can relate to their experiences. “For a new dentist just graduating, it might be a hard job for them to handle, to jump right into academic medicine,” she adds.”

Marty Levine, University Times , Dental program targets national faculty shortage (March 31, 2016)

The University Times’ initial report on the plans for the Academic Career Track Area of Concentration.

Marty Levine, University Times, Pitt’s solution to dental faculty shortage  (May 2, 2013)


Lunch Hour Discussion Series about Academic Dentistry

A lunch hour discussion series is offered several times a year about academic dentistry as a career option. The meetings are informal lunch time discussions about dental education as a career, clinical teaching, dental public health as an academic field, and similar topics of interest. Special guests (faculty and students) are invited to share their experiences and thoughts.

Elective Courses

Several elective courses (selectives) are offered at the UP-SDM to third and fourth year pre-doctoral students interested developing skills in didactic and clinical teaching and leadership:

  • DENT 5910 Clinical Teaching Practicum: The course provides students with the opportunity to learn about adult learning principles and to develop and practice teaching skills in pre-clinical and clinical settings. Students review course materials and skills taught in first and second year courses and approach them from an educational perspective. Assisting in pre-clinical or early clinical courses as teachers, students learn to explain the didactic content and concepts, and model clinical skills to more junior students. Students have the opportunity to promote lifelong learning in others as well as learn and practice communication, leadership, coaching, facilitation, teaching skills, and feedback techniques. This framework allows students to practice performing the qualities expected of a clinical instructor. (Course director: Dr. Zsuzsa Horvath) 
    See an introductory video and student testimonials below.
  • DENT 5981 Fundamentals of Teaching: Principles and Methods: This course introduces students to learning theories, basic tools and skills that are necessary for university-level instruction, such as adult learning theories, principles of course design, teaching goals and values, effective means of presenting instructional information, developing and leading discussions, active and interactive learning, as well as different forms of assessment and feedback. This framework allows students to develop skills and qualities expected of a didactic instructor. (Course director: Dr. Zsuzsa Horvath)   
  • DENT 5982 Teaching Practicum in Dental Education: The goal of this course is to provide an opportunity for students to practice didactic teaching by assisting in selected pre-doctoral didactic curricular activities (lecture, small group discussion, standardized patient session, etc.). In this course, students receive support, assistance, and feedback related to their presentation and teaching in curricular activities. Students are be able to consult on their presentation during the preparation, are observed while teaching, and receive feedback. This framework allows students to practice performing the qualities expected of a didactic instructor.  (Course director: Dr. Zsuzsa Horvath)   
  • DENT 5980 Introduction to Leadership and Career Development: In this course, students examine theories of leadership. The class activities include presentation by guest lecturers, discussions, group work, and projects. As a group-based project, students conduct faculty/administrator interviews with several faculty members to gain an appreciation of the different levels of an academic career from part-time faculty to deans. These interviews serve as a vehicle to identify role models. (Course directors: Drs. Heiko Spallek & Christine Wankiiri-Hale)   
  • DENT 5913 Educational Administration: The goal of this course is to provide an opportunity to students to experience and gain insight into educational administrative and service activities such as committee work at different levels. Depending on the available opportunities, students may serve on an educational committee, visit various committees at the school and committee level. (Course director: Dr. Horvath)
  • DENT 5977 Educational Research in Dental Medicine: The goal of this course is to provide an opportunity to students to engage in educational research in dental education and an introduction to many of the procedures commonly used in educational research. Conceptualization, procedures and analysis from a wide variety of areas will be covered, ranging from the planning a study, designing survey instruments, IRB review, searching for and reviewing educational literature, as well as gathering, analyzing and reporting quantitative and qualitative data. (Course director: Dr. Horvath)
  • DENT 5983 & DENT 5984 Academic Career Track Capstone 1 & 2 (ACT ARCO only): In this course, students will prepare a portfolio that includes their work they have prepared over the two years of the ACT ARCO program (including career reflection essay, teaching philosophy, syllabus sample, sample teaching materials, teaching evaluation, teaching observation, etc.), and prepare their presentation about their experience to the SDM community, which will be held in the Spring term. (Course directors: Drs. Horvath & Wankiiri-Hale)


Academic Career Track Area of Concentration – ACT ARCO

The Academic Career Track Area of Concentration (ACT ARCO) is a two-year program for students interested in pursuing a career in academic dentistry. The ACT ARCO program informs students about different career options and will also prepare them for a future role as a dental educator by providing hands-on training in the areas of teaching, scholarship, and leadership. The program also benefits future dentists, who will likely be involved in training more junior dentists and staff members in their practices as well as educating patients.

In the ACT ARCO courses, students will have the opportunity to develop leadership skills and gain a foundation in teaching and research. In addition, students will be able to review course material and skills taught in the first and second year curriculum and rethink them from an educational perspective both in didactic and pre-clinical/clinical settings. In the role of the teacher, students will learn to explain the materials or model clinical skills to more junior students, which requires a different level of understanding and well-developed communication skills. This experience not only promotes students’ own lifelong learning, but also teaches students how to promote lifelong learning in others. For more information visit the Dental Public Health Page.  

ACT ARCO Curriculum

The ACT ARCO will require students to take a sequence of courses, totaling between 10 and 12 credits (listed below) during their third and fourth years. These courses have been specifically designed to accommodate the third and fourth year first professional students’ schedule and clinical responsibilities. There is some flexibility in the sequencing of the courses depending on student’s interest and prior experience; optional courses may be taken.

3 Fall DENT 5981 Fundamentals of Teaching: Principles and Methods
3 Spring Research elective course
3 Summer DENT 5980 Introduction to Leadership and Career Development
4 Fall DENT 5982 Teaching Practicum in Dental Education
4 Fall DENT 5983 Academic Career Track Capstone Course 1
4 Spring DENT 5910 Clinical Teaching Practicum
4 Spring DENT 5984 Academic Career Track Capstone Course 2
  optional DENT 5912 Clinical Teaching Practicum 2
  optional DENT 5914 Clinical Teaching Practicum 3
  optional DENT 5913 Educational Administration
  optional DENT 5915 Introduction to Peer Tutoring in Dental Education
  optional DENT 5916 Peer Tutoring in Dental Education


ACT ARCO Students and Graduates

Class of 2018

Madiha Bhatty
Karunesh V. Chakote
Surbhi Chandna
Amber M. Hallowell
Samiya R. Jabir
Saniya Kamran
Sidharth Kannan
Ashley T. Lazar
Giana M. Lupinetti
Katherine A. Ni
Sruthi Satishchandran

Class of 2017

Radwan Almomani
Fan Xiaoha
Kristen M.Goble
Jamie A. Kaufer
Shruti Mantravadi
Tanvi Mehta
Aditi K. Parikh
Karan Shah
Chris Yang

Class of 2016

Aaema Athar
Sagar D. Chauhan
David J. Cole
Sneha R. Godi
Mandana M. Shaya
John S. Snee


Information about the Clinical Teaching Practicum and Student Testimonials

Teaching Practicum Testimonial - Trailer

Nicholas Riccio, Class of 2013

Nick helped with clinical teaching in Dr. Mandradjieff’s course RESTD 5216 Endodontics 1 Lab  


Teaching Practicum Testimonial: Nicholas Riccio

Cassidy Budd, Class of 2013

Cassidy helped with clinical teaching in Dr. Matuszak’s course RESTD 5147 Principles of Operative Dentistry 1 Lab

Teaching Practicum Testimonial: Cassidy Budd

Current students may use their Pitt username and password to access the syllabi on Curriculum Management Tool
Other visitors to the site may e-mail Dr. Zsuzsa Horvath to request copies of the syllabi.

Please contact Dr. Zsuzsa Horvath or Dr. Christine Wankiiri-Hale if you are interested learning about the ACT ARCO program, individual courses, or the lunch hour discussion series.