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Flint's big idea

Dr. Diane Flint

Dr. Diane Flint, assistant professor in diagnostic sciences,
and oral and maxillofacial radiologist

Photo courtesy Media Resources

In 2007, after the dental school’s imaging system went digital, Flint knew something needed to be done to familiarize students with the process before they stepped foot in the clinic. She never expected her efforts would draw national recognition.

Dr. Diane Flint doesn’t think of herself as an out-of-the-box teacher. It’s curious, then, that she is the 2012 recipient of the Charles Craig Award, bestowed on one dental educator nationwide whom Omicron Kappa Upsilon, a national dental honor society, deems has an innovative teaching style. The oral and maxillofacial radiologist and assistant professor of diagnostic sciences explains that logic and practical motivation drove her inventive educational method.

“The purpose is to make the transition for second years from book knowledge to hands-on knowledge.”

—Dr. Diane Flint

Within a year of when Flint joined the Department of Diagnostic Sciences in June 2006, the college went from film-based radiology to a digital system. During that transition, Flint, a former officer in the U.S. Air Force Dental Corps and diplomate of the American Board of General Dentistry and American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, noticed how students would get into the clinic and essentially scramble because they had never before used a digital system for caries interpretation.

A much-needed orientation

“Digital was new in the market,” Flint says of the 2007 transition. “Everyone was creating his or her own teaching program. I realized the need to get more hands on for the students. At the time, we worked with them as far as mounting their films,” she adds. “The clinical process of interacting with digital images and image enhancement wasn’t clicking.”

By 2009, she had started working with D2s in the library’s Instructional Computer Laboratory. There, in groups of 10, she’d show them how they could rotate pictures and change contrast — basically just orient them to the system. Then they would create a case based on the images.

Flint fine-tuned the program in 2010, and now it is built into the D2 clinical radiology course. Following course lectures on intraoral radiography, the orientation serves as students’ first exposure to the imaging process. By taking radiographs on manikins known as Dental X-ray Teaching and Training Replicas, D2s get experience with digital and scanning plates and learn to enhance the images and arrange them in templates in order to make a diagnosis.

Dr. Diane Flint
Flint at the Omicron Kappa Upsilon Annual Business Meeting in Orlando, Fla.

Photo courtesy Dr. Diane Flint

Transition from textbooks to interpretation

“Until then it’s all lecture for them — this is the first ‘practical’ radiology experience,” says Flint, who admits that during her years as a dental student, she too had trouble taking information from a lecture and immediately applying it in the clinical setting.

“The purpose is to make the transition for second years from book knowledge to hands-on knowledge,” she says.

Dr. Hui Liang, associate professor of diagnostic sciences, and oral and maxillofacial radiologist, says she’s noticed just how hard Flint works with the D2s each fall to give them a hands-on introduction to image processing, which includes a session at the library with the AxiUm training database, so they can practice caries interpretation.

“This makes D2 students much better prepared in the clinical setting for radiographic interpretation,” says Liang. “I am so grateful for her efforts.”

Those efforts were recognized March 18 during the Omicron Kappa Upsilon Annual Business Meeting in Orlando, Fla.

“I’m very thankful. I think it’s an honor,” Flint says of the award, which includes a certificate of recognition and $1,000. Nearly in the same breath, she adds that at the close of the spring semester, she plans to closely scrutinize student reviews, a sign she’s less focused on recognition and more on what she can continue to add to the curriculum.

“It’s my goal to keep looking at the program to see what we can do to improve it,” Flint says.

About the Omicron Kappa Upsilon Charles Craig Award

Purpose: to recognize and encourage young dental educators who have demonstrated and implemented new, innovative teaching techniques

How Flint was nominated: Dr. Pete Benson, Imaging Center director and vice chair of diagnostic sciences, submitted the nomination, and the college’s OKU chapter supported it. Dr. Lawrence Wolinsky, dean, submitted a letter of recommendation on Flint’s behalf. The OKU Supreme Chapter Charles Craig Committee then selected Flint as the recipient from a pool of nominees.

Where she’ll donate the award: my charity: water