The Impact Of Dental Student Research Training On Dental Trainees And Educators

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Determined to evaluate the impact of the NIDCR training grant, which has included research training of approximately 200 dental students over 20 years at the University of Iowa, on both students and …

Determined to evaluate the impact of the NIDCR training grant, which has included research training of approximately 200 dental students over 20 years at the University of Iowa, on both students and mentors. Specifically foscusing on years 1995-2005.

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  • 1. The Impact of Dental Student Research Training on Dental Trainees and Educators Author: Sara Anstoetter Mentor: Dr. Janet Guthmiller
  • 2. I. Background and Significance There is a declining trend in the recruitment and retention of dental professionals inacademia which is raising concerns among the dental community (Rosenstiel and Johnston,2002). Increasing numbers of vacant budgeted faculty positions could potentially threaten thefuture of dental education. In the United States the number of vacant position is approaching400, with an average nearly 250 full time positions being vacant over the last 8 years (Weaver etal., 2001). In a recent survey conducted by Weaver et al., results showed that the increasingvacancies did not seem to affect the quality of dental education (Weaver et al., 2005). Whilethere may be no immediate threat, the study indicated that 55% of Dental Deans suggested thatin the next five years recruitment to fill the vacant positions will become more difficult (Weaver,et al., 2005). The growing shortage is attributed to the large portion of dental faculty reachingretirement age. 50% of faculty are reported to be 50 years or older and 20% 60 years or older(Weaver et al., 2001). It is projected that 900 full time faculty will retire over the next 10 years(Haden et al., 2002). This widespread shortage calls for graduating dental students to fill thevacancies. However sparking interest in academia proves to be somewhat of a challenge. Only0.5-1.3% of graduating seniors from 1980-1999 indicated plans to pursue academic career.(AADS Task Force). The income potential earned in relation to the financial benefits of privatepractice, debt accumulation, little patient contact, demand on time, and expectations ofuniversities and health centers, are just a few contributing reasons defining the lack of studentinterest to enter academia. Implementing research programs is one short-term solution to encourage dental studentsto pursue academic careers. “Mentoring activities and creation of opportunities for careerdevelopment are crucial factors in developing interest in academics among graduate dentists”(Schenkein and Best, 2001). While many schools offer research opportunities for their dentalstudents, few have formally evaluated their dental student research programs. Rosenstiel andJohnston (2002) reported that student researchers graduating from the Ohio State UniversityCollege of Dentistry were five times as likely to become full-time faculty (5% of those surveyedwere teaching full-time). Similar programs have been developed in Medicine to encouragestudent participation in research. One example of this is the program developed at the Universityof Colorado, Department of Family Medicine where financial support for research, involvementwith faculty mentors, and agendas are planned around student’s schedules. The results indicatedan increase in student participation in research (Gonzales et al., 1998). Prior to the formalized dental student research program at the University of Iowa, thenumber of presentations made by students at national research and clinical specialty meetingswas 51 from 1984-1988. In 1989, the College of Dentistry constructed a formalized programincluding an introduction to the research program, selection of a faculty mentor, development ofa research proposal, and the opportunity to present findings. After this was implemented, thestudent productivity saw a dramatic increase in numbers, with an output of 88 presentationsmade in the 2 year period from 1989-1991 (Keller, et al., 1993). There are many other goals of formalized research programs in professional training.“Hospitals with long traditions of excellence have demonstrated abundantly that researchenhances the vitality of teaching; teaching lifts the standards of service; and service opens new
  • 3. areas of investigation” Dr. Jack Masur, Associate Director of NIH, 1960-1969 (Catalanotto). It iswith this in mind that the University of Iowa strives to enhance dental education by encouragingstudents to consider a career in research after completion of their formal training and to foster anenvironment where students can acquire proficient technical skills essential to patient care, learnto think critically and apply their understanding of the scientific method to the practice ofdentistry, and assist faculty efforts in the scholarly mission of the college. The College of Dentistry has had a National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research(NIDCR) training grant for 20 consecutive years. This program along with two other researchaward programs in the College of Dentistry has enrolled over 235 dental students in the past 10years and is one of the Nations’ largest dental student research programs (representinginvolvement of approximately 1/3 of our dental student body) . It is the overall purpose of this study to evaluate the impact this program has had on bothstudents and mentors. Ultimately, the value and contribution of the dental student researchprogram relative to the strategic mission of the College of Dentistry will be assessed.II. Materials and MethodsA. A literature review was performed to summarize the outcomes of dental research programsthroughout the United States.B. Records obtained from the University of Iowa College of Dentistry Student Researchprogram, were reviewed from the last 10 years (1996-2005) and were used to generate aspreadsheet detailing students’ individual accomplishments. The data collected will be used forpublication and presentation purposes. This spreadsheet can be found in Appendix A.C. Faculty productivity over the last 10 years (1996-2005) was assessed by evaluatingmaterials from previous dental school accreditation reports. These records were used toformulate a spreadsheet, detailing the number of students each mentor supervised over the 10year period, and the number of publications and abstracts the mentors generated with dentalstudent researchers. This spreadsheet can be found in Appendix B.D. Questionnaires were developed for pilot testing and were distributed to 5 alumni of dentalstudent research programs and 8 University of Iowa College of Dentistry faculty who haveserved as mentors. The questionnaires can be found in Appendix C.III. ResultsA. Dental student research activity and productivity at the College of Dentistry. Studentswere broken down by the type of award received by the University of Iowa College of Dentistry(DRA, NIDCR, and DOWS) (see Table 1 - generated from data in Appendix A.). The DRA orDental Research Award is a four year research scholarship awarded to students at the time oftheir admission to dental school. NIDCR and Dows awards are both short term research awards(typically 3 month appointments). Total numbers of abstracts and publications, number ofnational and local awards received, and the number of presentations at meetings and leadershippositions were calculated specific to each type of award over the 10 year period from 1996-2005.These totals were used as a measure of productivity. There was a total of 416 abstracts andresearch presentations at National Research and Dental Specialty meetings, averaging 42
  • 4. presentations per year, by predoctoral dental students (57% of students with awards presentedtheir findings); Our dental student researchers published 94 manuscripts (39% of all studentresearchers), averaging 9.4 per year, and were the recipients of 43 national research awards.Over this 10 year span, 7 of our students held national student research leadership positions orwere selected as winners of the prestigious Hatton research award among all dental studentresearchers in the country.B. Mentor activity and productivity at the College of Dentistry. Table 2 summarizes theaverage and median number of students per mentor over a ten year period from 1996-2005. Onaverage, faculty at the College of Dentistry mentored 3-4 students, with a median of 2 permentor. 46% of the faculty mentors mentored a single student in the 10 year period, while 26%mentored between 2 and 3 students. 18% of the mentors supervised over 5 students in the 10year period. Table 3 summarizes the average number of publications generated with dentalstudent researchers per mentor over a ten year period from 1996-2005 (Data found in AppendixB). On average, mentors published between 2 and 3 publications with student authors, with amedian of 2, in the 10 year period. 13% of mentors published only 1 manuscript with a student.In contrast, 1 mentor generated 20 student publications in ten years. Table 4 summarizes theaverage number of abstracts produced per mentor over the ten year period. On average, a mentorpublished 6 abstracts in the ten year span, with a median of 3. 34% of mentors only published 1or 2 abstracts with their students between 1995 and 2005, while 22% of mentors published morethan 5 abstracts in that period.C. Research students with academic careers. 10% of our dental student researchers havepursued an academic career either as full or part-time dental educators (data not shown).D. Questionnaires - Pilot studies. Comments received from the pilot questionnaires includedsuggestions to shorten the mentor questionnaire, combining questions, clarification whereneeded, give ranges where appropriate, give opportunity for listing positive and negative featuresof the program.IV. Discussion Overall, the productivity of the combined dental student research awardees as measuredby national presentations and ultimately publications was 57% and 39% respectively. Therecipients of the 4-year scholarship awards (DRA) demonstrated the highest percentage (44%) ofpublications. These research students are expected to conduct research throughout their 4 yeardental curriculum. The results support the fact that sustained research activity and fundingultimately results in the best productivity as measured by numbers of published manuscripts.Alternatively, one could argue that the short-term awardees were just as productive if theelement of time is considered (i.e. the return on the investment was higher for the shorterawards). The short term research awardees, NIDCR and DOWS had 33% and 38% publishedmanuscripts, respectively. Future considerations for these awards may include longerappointments (typically they are 3 month summer research appointments); or subsequent awardsto productive students to enhance numbers of publications.
  • 5. While 92 members of the College of Dentistry faculty have served as a mentor over thepast 10 years, only 35% of these mentors have published papers with their student researchersand all but one of these have 1-5 published manuscripts with students. The number of abstractswith students is much higher; 72% of mentors/students publishing abstracts. Our faculty mentorsover these years have included tenured, tenure-track, and clinical track individuals. Overall,with a relatively low rate of student involved manuscripts, future assessment should evaluatewhether mentoring is a productive use of faculty time and energy and if certain faculty are inbetter positions to mentor. The fact that 10% of dental student researchers have maintained an academic interest isvital. Leaders in Academic Dentistry have suggested that if every dental school in the UnitedStates could attract 1% of its graduating dental class into dental academics, the shortage of dentalfaculty would be resolved (the 1% solution). This alone may be a key determinant inmaintaining and sustaining the dental student research program at the University of Iowa. Over this 10 year period, 16 students from the College of Dentistry at the University ofIowa have been elected to serve as officers of the National Student Research group, thegoverning body of dental student and graduate dental researchers in the American Association ofDental Research. Participation at this level has further encouraged some of these students topursue academic careers.V. Future Directions Our future plans include revision of the pilot questionnaires based on responses receivedand distribution to all faculty mentors and dental alumni who participated in the researchprogram as students. We will analyze this data and work with our statistitician to formallyanalyze all aspects of our assessments. The information obtained from this study will ultimately facilitate a formal evaluation ofthe program and guide future direction to the dental student research program at the Universityof Iowa.VI. Summary In summary, the dental student researchers enrolled in the Dental Student ResearchProgram from 1996-2005 at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry have producednumerous publications and received numerous national awards and recognition. The programalso appears to benefit the collegiate scholarly mission as well. Finally, the program hasencouraged the entry of dental research students into academics, a vital need as schools approachcontinued dental faculty shortages.
  • 6. VII. BibliographyAmerican Association of Dental Schools. Future of dental school faculty: report of thepresident’s task force. Washington, DC: American Association of Dental Schools. 1999.Gonzales AO, Westerfall J, Barley GE. Promoting medical student involvement in primary careresearch; Fam Med 1998, 30:113-6.Haden NC, Weaver, RC, Valachovic RW. Meeting the demand for future dental school faculty:trends, challenges, and responses; J Dent Educ; 2002, 66: 1102-1113.Keller JC, Seydel SK, Kremenak NW, Kremenak CR. The development of a dental studentresearch program. J Dent Educ. 1993; 57(5):369-72.Rosenstiel, S, Johnston, WM: Goals, Costs, and outcomes of a predoctoral student ResearchProgram. J Dent Educ 2002, 66: 1368-1373.Schenkein HA, Best AM. Factors considered by new faculty in their decision to choose careersin academic dentistry; J Dent Educ 2001; 65:832-40.Weaver RG, Haden NK, Valachovic RW. Dental school vacant budgeted faculty positions:academic year 200-01; J Dent Educ 2001, 65: 1291-1302.Weaver RG, Chmar JE, Haden NK, Valachovic RW. Dental school vacant budgeted facultypositions: academic year 2003-04; J Dent Educ 2005, 69: 296-305.
  • 7. VIII. Tables Table 1. Summary of Data found in Appendix A # Leadership Positions (NSRG and Hatton Finalists) # National Awards # Total Awards # publications # abstracts # Students Type of Award DRA 110 207 48 23 65 11 NIDCR 63 119 21 13 39 4 DOWS 65 90 25 7 30 2 41 13 TOTALS 238 6 94 43 4 17 Table 2. Summary of the average and median number of students per mentor over a ten year period from 1996-2005. Data found in Appendix B. # Mentors/ Total # # Students Mentored # Mentors Mentors 1 42 46% 2 11 12% 3 13 14% 4 4 4% 5 5 5% >5 17 18% Avg. # Students/ Mentor 3.456521739 Median # Students 2 Table 3. Summary of the average number of publications produced per mentor over a ten year period from 1996-2005. Data found in Appendix B. # Publications w/ Students # Mentors # Mentors/ Total #
  • 8. Mentors 1 12 13% 2 8 9% 3 5 5% 4 4 4% 5 3 3% 20 1 1% Average # Publications/Mentor 2.848484848 Median # Publications/Mentor 2Table 4. Summary of the average number of abstracts produced per mentor over a ten year period from1996-2005. Data found in Appendix B. # Abstracts with Students # Mentors # Mentors/ Total # Mentors 1 17 18% 2 15 16% 3 4 4% 4 6 6% 5 6 6% >5 20 22% Average # Abstracts/Mentor 6.088235294 Median # Abstracts/Mentor 3