What does dental education look like in the age of COVID?
DCG had no template to follow so invented one on the spot. “It’s amazing how well we have functioned in light of a virtually unprecedented challenge,” says Dean Carol A. Lefebvre. “Immediately upon the shut-down in spring 2020, our incredible team came together to create protocols optimizing the safety and well-being of our students, residents, faculty and, most importantly, patients.”
As of press time, mass immunizations were setting the nation on a path to near-normalcy. But many curricular changes have been required to ensure that students fulfill graduation expectations and are optimally prepared to begin their professions. Some of those will likely remain permanent.
“We’ve had to ensure that students complete all their coursework and clinical training,” says Dr. Alan Furness, assistant dean in the Department of Academic Administration. “Nothing could come to a standstill, but virtually everything had to be adapted to some degree or another.”
When the Augusta University campus shut down in March 2020, didactic courses were moved online, with several of them being pushed up in the curriculum to accommodate the clinical work that had to be postponed. Dr. Joseph Vitolo, associate dean for Academic Affairs and Advanced Education, oversaw the process and ensured a full-steam-ahead transition once the full scale of clinical services resumed.
Furness acknowledges the considerable challenge of restructuring an education that is largely hands-on but cited extraordinary commitment and cooperation from the faculty, staff and students. “We made extensive use of simulation labs to practice psychomotor skills,” he says. “Then we phased back in clinical services as it was prudent to do so, but with extensive protocols in place to protect our students, staff, faculty and patients. Those protocols will serve us well far into the future.”