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Lessons learned from applying to work at a dental school


Why interviewing for this position was a sobering experience.

Have you ever applied for a position to work at a dental school? I have, and it was a sobering experience. (No, I’m not bitter I didn’t get the job; that isn’t the motivation for sharing this story.) This article is about what I learned during the 10 interviews I had with faculty and students.

The position I applied for was looking for someone with a counseling or social work background (check, got that.) My experience having published 115 dental articles added to my resume quite nicely. Unfortunately, the school had an internal candidate who was moved into that position. What concerned me was that students and faculty identified several serious issues they wanted addressed if I got the position. My question is whether these problems exist at other dental schools across the country.

Diversity - American students reported that international students were given extensions on projects and were given second chances that they weren’t receiving. Both students and faculty talked about a student who was there for six years when it’s only a 4-year program. Faculty wasn’t sure that this student had the ability to be a dentist. If that’s the case, then why is he still in the program? The concern was that international students who were “paying the big bucks” were being treated differently than American-born students. I don’t know if that was the case or not, but it’s the perception that both students and faculty voiced, so it’s worth discussing.

More from the author: What are you doing with your life?

Faculty issues - Department heads described how “adjunct professors come in and do their own thing without being respectful to the full-timers.” They felt they weren’t part of the team and sometimes held contempt for each other. This is truly problematic if there’s not a unified team. One faculty member told me that some professors can’t manage a dental practice, so they became teachers. (Maybe there’s some truth to that old adage, “Those who can’t do, teach.”)

Equipment - A new school was being built. It was expected to be a state-of-the-art space, but the students had many concerns. Parking was a big one. The students felt the dean wasn’t telling them enough information, but I suspected that all the details weren’t available when asked. The students also felt that new equipment was being stored for the new building and that it was now obsolete as the school had been sitting on it for four years instead of teaching students how to use it. If they were saving it for the new building, then it wasn’t the newest and best for a state-of-the-art facility. Obviously, there were communication issues that needed to be addressed upfront.

I wanted this position because I believe that with change there can be improvement. People like me “run toward the fire” when everyone else runs in the other direction. Hopefully, the school hired someone who will be able to effect change. They need to do so not just for the students but for the faculty and the school. If there are questions regarding the quality of an education, that’s severely damaging not just for the school and university but for the dental field in general. You don’t want to graduate students who haven’t been taught on the right equipment by people who aren’t the best in the industry. Perhaps I’m being too unrealistic. Maybe this is the real world. But deep down, I don’t think so.

What do you think? Are our dental programs the strongest and serving the best talented student population? Are our professors needing to work more like a team and keep the focus on the students? What’s best for the program? If you want to join in on the conversation, email diana2@discussdirectives.com and share your thoughts and experiences.

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