"A difficult stop": How the Harvard Dental School allows every student to graduate despite the pandemic suspension | News | Harvard Crimson

2021-12-15 00:55:22 By : Mr. Daniel Xing

In March 2020, the Harvard Dental School was completely remote; all students were sent home, and the Harvard Dental Clinic, where students usually hone their skills in dealing with patients, was closed, except for emergency care.

"We went from a complete clinic to a hard stop: 100 miles per hour to zero," said German O. Gallucci, head of the Department of Restorative Dentistry and Biomaterials Science.

With the closure, third and fourth grade dentistry students — whose courses are based on clinical practice and experience — were cut off from seeing patients. Sang E. Park, associate dean of dental education at HSDM, said that although fourth-year students have completed most of the requirements, third-year students in 2021 face the challenge of meeting graduation and competency standards, despite reduced clinical availability.

"I have to say that this is the most challenging course-class of 2021-in my 20-year career as a dental teacher, I must graduate on time," Parker said.

Nevertheless, every member of the 2021 class graduated on time or early. The dean of the school, William V. Giannobile, expressed his gratitude to the faculty and staff who helped the students complete the requirements. This is a feat.

He said in an interview in October: “What the faculty and staff do is they'sacrifice' the internship time of the faculty and staff and open clinics to students.” “Then they work three nights a week, and the same is true on Saturdays. Provide this kind of education."

The 2021 students said in an interview that they were initially worried about the sudden interruption of clinical education, but were impressed by the school’s response-first, the curriculum was adjusted to online in the first few months of the pandemic, and then the students were gradually returned in person Clinical practice.

"I'm glad I went to a school like Harvard. To be honest, they are very concerned about helping us graduate," said Ashiana Jivraj, a 2021 HSDM graduate who was a third-year student when she was sent home.

Russell H. Taylor, a lecturer in restoration dentistry and biomaterials science, acknowledged that providing remote instruction in special practice areas such as dentistry is challenging.

"You need to practice a lot of skills, and you need to do it under supervision when you start, because it's also a very hands-on and very visual profession," he said. "There are a lot of tactile and visual things, you can't just distribute reading, it's inevitable."

Park said that designing a virtual course that makes full use of the time of students and faculty, while ensuring that students can meet dental competency standards during the suspension period, "is like solving a big problem."

"It provides us with an opportunity for innovation-from digital learning, content delivery reorganization, and course schedule reorganization," she said.

Park said that this school introduced teledentistry for the first time, where students can help screen patients, classify and provide dental advice to them in a virtual way.

She added that patient case presentations, including large-scale inspections—showing complex cases to a large number of dentists and students—and case review seminars were also conducted in a virtual manner.

"Even if they are not students' direct, hands-on clinical experience, we are trying to really maximize the time we have to learn remotely," Parker said.

"It cannot replace direct patient care, but it can complement the way we provide patient care," she added.

Neil T. Griseto, lecturer in restorative dentistry and biomaterials science, said the pandemic has allowed the dental school to re-examine its courses and reintroduce previous teaching techniques.

"We used the old teaching method-classic teaching methods for manual skills such as waxing-and we reintroduced this in the course," he said.

The faculty and staff gave musical instruments to students at home and asked the students to use musical instruments to record. Grisetto said the teacher then evaluates the student's performance through self-assessment and photos.

"These are things that I think are really good for me and my education, but maybe we haven't taught for a while," he added. "They have fallen out of favor as a teaching method."

Park also pointed out that the emergency situation caused by the pandemic allows effective review and revision of school curricula, which usually take longer to develop.

"It provides us with the opportunity to comprehensively review courses and programs in a short period of time," she said.

Some teachers provide additional research opportunities and study groups to further supplement students' distance learning experience.

Hiroe B. Ohyama, Professor of Restorative Dentistry and Biomaterials Science, said that she recruited students to conduct research with her during the government shutdown and helped them publish their research results.

Through the HSDM Aesthetics Association (an extracurricular organization), Taylor said that he worked with students to create about 20 virtual lectures on topics ranging from basic dental fillings to proper use of dental equipment.

When HSDM graduate Kasey D. Ha returned to the dental school in July 2020, she said that she was afraid to return to the clinic because no one had been vaccinated and she had to undergo surgery at close range without wearing a mask. .

"It was really scary at first, to be honest, go back to the clinic," she said. "The patient is sitting in front of you without wearing a mask. You are just immersed in it for a few hours, so it's really scary."

Taylor said the initial return was also "stressful" for faculty and staff.

“Earlier, there was an article in the New York Times that said that dentistry and hygiene are the most risky of all occupations, because basically we are sitting there, atomizing in the mouth of the patient,” he said. "People are really nervous. We have very strict PPE agreements. We are often tested."

Ha said the school provided students with embroidered face masks, gowns and goggles and ensured that they disinfected N-95 after each use.

Grisetto pointed out that the school has been stocking N-95 masks since February 2020. It is expected that the pandemic will intensify and personal protective equipment will be exhausted.

"Because we are small, we have enough personal protective equipment to keep this place running," he said.

According to Griseto, the school also replaced all filters in the building and installed additional equipment such as vacuum cleaners and aerosol removal devices.

"Looking back now, we did something that might not be necessary," he said. "But the measures we took were ultimately very successful because we did not have any transmissions. As far as I know, we still do not have any recorded Covid-19 transmissions in the building."

According to public health guidelines, dental clinics will also operate at 50% capacity until May 2021.

Ha says this helps protect patients — under normal conditions, there are only four to five feet high walls between patients — but it also forces students to prioritize the limited time they must practice in the clinic.

"Although we don't go to the clinic often, I think it makes each clinic experience more important to us," she said. "Because we know that our time is very limited, everything we do is very efficient."

Professor Dashan said that she also noticed that the students were more focused on clinical practice because they knew that they had reduced their practice time.

"They are very focused. I think students and faculty have a different mentality-this is the only time we have to teach, and on the other hand, like students [of view], this is the only time I can practice," she Say.

Park said that despite the sudden changes in HSDM's curriculum and clinical experience, every student in the pre-doctoral and advanced graduate programs in 2020 and 2021 graduated on time.

"Not only that, but for the DMD program-this is our pre-doctoral program-our national committee dental exam has a 100% pass rate-the first pass rate," Park added.

Both students and faculty praised the personalized guidance and collaboration promoted within the dental school during the pandemic to ensure the continuity of student education.

Jivraj, one of the HSDM graduates in 2021, said that faculty and staff-especially full-time professors-"really stand up" and provide support and guidance "day and night".

"I remember a professor put his daughter to bed, and he answered the phone," Jivraj said. "He is sitting on his porch so that he does not wake his child so that we can discuss the case, and how we will meet all the restoration requirements, and how he will help the fourth-and third Grade graduates."

Aram Kim, professor of restoration dentistry and biomaterials science, said that she and other faculty and staff are always available to provide academic and emotional support to students.

"This is a very stressful period. Many meetings are virtual, a lot of content is virtual, and many people have lost contact," Jin said. "We check in with students every week, listen to their needs, and their opinions, how we can tide over the difficulties together, how can we help them maximize our situation, how can we better help them prepare for the next step."

"I absolutely praise the enthusiasm and resilience of all our students, because I can't imagine myself going through the dental school during the pandemic," she added.

Ha said the pandemic has also strengthened relationships and teamwork among students. She pointed out that the students of this school-Harvard's smallest school-have united, but the pandemic has brought them together and worked together to graduate.

Ha said: "Given the difficult situation of Covid and the limited capacity, because our team is so tight, everyone is willing to help each other." "People are willing to share materials, laboratory time, clinic time-I think we have such a tight queue It’s very important for us so that everyone can help each other graduate."

Daniel M. Roistacher, a graduate of HSDM in 2021, said he believes that the school has made necessary changes to the curriculum and clinical experience to maintain the quality of teaching.

"I think we have achieved the proper dental education we intend to achieve-I think it's very remarkable," Roistacher said. "I think this shows the overall resilience of our class and the school's efforts."

— Ariel H. Kim, a guest writer, can be reached at ariel.kim@thecrimson.com.

-You can contact the staff Anjeli R. Macaranas at anjeli.macaranas@thecrimson.com.