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Bridging the gap

Summer 2011 Clinical Internship participants

Incoming D2s who participated in the college's first summer Clinical Internship, with Dr. Dan Jones, chair of public health sciences; Dr. Stan Ashworth, associate professor of general dentistry; and Dr. Mohsen Taleghani, chair of general dentistry.

Photo courtesy Dr. Dan Jones

Faculty, D2s weigh in on benefits, future of Clinical Internship after a successful summer program

Dr. Stan Ashworth was a bit skeptical about how the new Clinical Internship would pan out when Dr. Dan Jones, professor and chair of public health sciences, first broached the idea with him. It meant nearly a dozen incoming D2 students would shadow and assist D4s at the dental school and juvenile detention center clinics throughout much of the summer.

At the start of the six-week program in June 2011, Ashworth gathered the students into the conference room on Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry’s seventh floor. The general dentistry associate professor wanted to get a better feel for what, if any, hands-on dental experience the students actually had.

“We spend so much time in the D1 and D2 year with books
and working on typodonts, and it was refreshing to actually see
what we’ve been learning on the practice manikins in lab
being translated into a real life scenario on a live patient.”
— Britany Jenkins, D2

There were a few students with previous dental clinic exposure, but Ashworth recalls that some were “absolute rookies.” Even so, he adds, “They were more in tune than I thought they were going to be.”

While concern about how he would effectively lead his group of nearly 20 D4s and orient the student interns to the clinic initially weighed on his mind, Ashworth soon realized the worry was unfounded.

“After a week, the D2 students were all performing at the same level,” he says.

What’s more, D4s quickly realized the value of having a dental assistant and were willing to sign the rapidly growing wait list just to make sure they had D2 interns assigned to help them.

“Something that usually took two appointments could be done in one,” says Ashworth. Add to the mix the interns’ tendency to follow the example of their D4 cohorts, who work all day, many times through lunch, and the efficiency in the clinic jumped between early June and mid July.

Looking ahead

The Clinical Internship, funded by a portion of a $725,000, five-year U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration grant, was awarded to public health sciences in September 2010 but functions as a joint program with the Department of General Dentistry.

After Dr. Mohsen Taleghani, professor and chair of the general dentistry department, made the program possible by approving access to the clinic, and Ashworth shared his invaluable observations with Jones, the student interns once again were corralled into the seventh floor conference room — this time, to get their feedback on the internship program’s effectiveness.

“All our students said they felt they would be well ahead of their classmates a year from now,” Jones says.

The debriefing session allowed Jones to see what parts of the Clinical Internship worked and what facets need to be fine tuned before next summer. 

The upcoming changes are twofold — on one hand, the program’s size will increase to include up to 20 student interns, which means scaling back on the $1,000 monthly stipend allotted to each participant.

The second adjustment will be trickier and includes instituting a selection process. It’s necessary, considering this year the internship program wasn’t even advertised. Jones mentioned it to his D1 class and still ended up with three more students than he originally planned.

“Choosing is going to be tricky,” Jones says, acknowledging that because of clinic space constraints the entire D2 class can’t be included, and that intern selection criteria are still under consideration.

“We’re going to expand it and do the best we can, and as time goes on, we can make changes,” Jones says of the internship program.

Easing the transition

While increased efficiency in both clinical settings served as an unexpected benefit, the program is designed to give dental students heightened exposure to patient interaction earlier in their dental school careers.

The Clinical Internship really bridges the transition between the D2 and D3 year, Jones says.

“It’s going to make life a lot better for them when they get to clinic,” he says. “They’ll be better prepared because of it.”

Ashworth reinforces that sentiment.

“To give them the opportunity to see patient interaction will be really beneficial,” Ashworth says. “I think they’re going to go back and tell their classmates. When it comes time for them to go to clinic I think they will be sought after.”

Britany Jenkins, D2, is one such student.

“I would definitely recommend this program to other students who are serious about wanting to get started a little early in the clinic setting,” Jenkins says.

The experience gave Jenkins and many of her fellow D2 interns the opportunity to process X-rays, assist with extractions, operative procedures and periodontal surgery, and even take patient impressions and pour casts for study models.

“My favorite part about the program was actually getting to interact with the patients,” Jenkins continues. “We spend so much time in the D1 and D2 year with books and working on typodonts, and it was refreshing to actually see what we’ve been learning on the practice manikins in lab being translated into a real life scenario on a live patient.”