2020 Provost’s Award for Diversity in the Curriculum

Pitt Dental Medicine faculty members are recognized for their efforts in developing important diversity curricular content.
Dear Colleagues and Friends;
 
It gives me great pride to announce that Drs. Zsuzsa Horvath and Christine Wankiiri-Hale have been awarded the 2020 Provost’s Award for Diversity in the Curriculum in recognition for their innovative approach to train dental students to respond to cultural insensitivity from patients titled When the Appointment is no Longer about Dentistry.
 
This award is sponsored by the Office of the Provost and the University Center for Teaching and Learning to showcase excellence in creating a learning environment for our students that recognizes diversity and is inclusive of all.
 

The 2020 Awards Ceremony was held virtually on February 18.

 
The When the Appointment is No Longer About Dentistry curricular content addresses an important educational need in the health professions. Inappropriate patient behavior often catches the provider and the health care team off guard. The inappropriate behaviors can include explicit aggression or violence, macroaggressions, refusal of care and questioning the provider’s role, and verbal and non-verbal disrespect. These behaviors can also negatively affect the provider’s ability to offer effective care. Many students have difficulty addressing these types of comments while maintaining professional decorum, particularly when unwelcome patient comments focus on potentially sensitive topics such as race, gender, sexual orientation, religious and political preferences, and age.
 
Recognizing the need for additional training, in 2017 Drs. Horvath and Wankiiri-Hale introduced curricular content to prepare clinic-bound students on how best to respond to inappropriate comments and gestures from patients and to discourage this type of behavior in a professional setting. Applying a peer-teaching approach, we worked with an upper class dental student   student to develop short videos with examples of inappropriate patient behavior.
 
The origin of the idea and inspiration came from an upper class dental student in the Academic Career Track Area of Concentration (ACT ARCO) program. In the spring of 2017, Drs. Horvath and Wankiiri-Hale held advising sessions for ACT ARCO students to discuss topics and opportunities for their upcoming teaching practicum. One of the ACT ARCO dental students, now Dr. Saniya Kamran (Class of 2018), suggested a topic that she felt was missing from our curriculum—preparing students to handle and respond to inappropriate patient comments and behaviors in a culturally sensitive manner, i.e. when these situations obscure the focus on health and the appointment is no longer about dentistry. 
 
Drs. Horvath and Wankiiri-Hale persuaded by Dr. Kamran’s recognition of the gap in the curriculum and moved by her passion, worked with her together to develop this idea into a curricular component and guided her to create instructional materials. They recognized that this novel student-driven content would not only address a curricular gap, but also has the unique potential to impact learners in new ways, by capitalizing on the strength and benefits of peer-teaching. In part due to the overwhelmingly positive response by first-year students, the content has now been incorporated as a standard offering within the first-year curriculum. 
 

Dr. Saniya Kamran presenting at the 2018 American Dental Education Association (ADEA) Annual Session & Exhibition (from left to right: Drs. Zsuzsa Horvath, Saniya Kamran, Christine Wankiiri-Hale)

 
To maintain the peer-teaching aspect of the session, every year two new upper class dental student   ACT ARCO students are selected to teach this topic. Drs. Horvath and Wankiiri-Hale guide them through the process, discussing their plans and teaching techniques for giving an engaging lecture and facilitating an effective small group discussion. Each academic career track student brings their own unique experience and contributes their own ideas to conduct this session within the original framework. 
 
“It has been a rewarding and inspirational experience,” Dr. Horvath says, “to see how a student project has grown into such an impactful and long-term component of our curriculum, contributing to the education of dental students in their first year and during their first exposure to patient care.” Adding to this, Dr. Wankiiri-Hale emphasized that, “offering and including our students’ voice in our diversity and cultural competency curriculum is unique and—we recognize—is a privilege.”
 
When the Appointment is no Longer about Dentistry has proven to be a powerful and stimulating curricular component in the first year and represents a progressive educational model by allowing students to contribute to and impact the curriculum in a direct way. 
 
I am thrilled to witness this recognition for Drs. Horvath and Wankiiri-Hale’s work and the students in the ACT ARCO program. Please congratulate Drs. Horvath and Wankiiri-Hale on this amazing accomplishment. 
 
Yours in service,
 
Bernard J. Costello DMD, MD
Dean and Thomas W. Braun Endowed Professor
School of Dental Medicine
University of Pittsburgh