Dentistry is going digital. Computer-based patient records, digital impressions, 3D models, CAD/CAM, personal dental records, online scheduling and teledentistry are some of the technologies that only recently have seen the light of day. Have you ever wondered how these innovations are created? Who are the people who have these ideas and make them real? How are they trained?
Through its training program in dental informatics (see http://di.dental.pitt.edu/postgrad.php), the University of Pittsburgh educates tomorrow's leaders of the technological revolution in dental care and research. The program offers an MS, PhD and postdoctoral option. Applications for the next academic year are being accepted now!
Gaining the expertise and knowledge to help lead the technology revolution in dentistry requires some work. The degree programs are comprised of a rigorous didactic component and in-depth research training, beginning in the first semester. Trainees are expected to fully immerse themselves into the science of biomedical informatics, and to present and publish their work frequently.
The University of Pittsburgh Biomedical Informatics Training Program provides a unique setting and environment for future dental informatics researchers. More than 25 core faculty interact with and teach the approximately 35 trainees enrolled at any one time. Trainees come from a variety of backgrounds—medicine, dentistry, nursing, psychology, computer science, information science, and biology, to name just a few. Taken together, these individuals create an intellectually stimulating and rewarding environment dedicated to the pursuit of science and discovery.
Dental informatics students take most of the same courses as other trainees, but have a track of nine didactic credits for their specialty. All of them participate in dental informatics research from the first day in the program. Early research experiences typically occur as part of a group mentored by one or more faculty members, while subsequent research, such as the MS project or PhD thesis, becomes increasingly independent.
The program prepares individuals primarily for research and teaching careers in dental informatics; other career options include positions within larger dental care delivery organizations, such as group practices and independent practice associations to support the application of computer technology. Dental software developers, such as dental practice management system vendors, also require the expertise offered by dental informatics specialists.
For US citizens and permanent residents, financial support from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) is available. NIDCR funds provide a stipend, tuition, fees and health insurance support, travel subsidies, and a state-of-the-art computer. These positions are highly sought after and admission is very competitive. The program also offers a limited number of positions for self-funded trainees. Typically, we have approximately 2 to 4 dental informatics trainees in the program at any one time.
So, how do you decide whether this program is for you? If you like to innovate, be in control of technology (rather than being controlled by it), and would like to contribute to improving dentistry and dental care using technology, this program is for you. You should have good analytical skills, and either quantitative or qualitative abilities. A background in programming and/or information technology is a plus—while informatics is not just about computers per se, we use them a lot in our day-to-day work.
Additional information about the program is available at http://di.dental.pitt.edu/postgrad.php. We are currently looking to fill several trainee positions. Please contact the program director, Dr. Titus Schleyer (email@example.com) for any questions.