Perceptions of dental academia: the student’s dental home by

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Meghan R. Bastin

BS in Dental Hygiene, University of Pittsburgh, 2010

Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of

Graduate School of Public Health in partial fulfillment

of the requirements for the degree of

Master of Public Health

University of Pittsburgh




This essay is submitted


Meghan Bastin

May 12, 2015
and approved by

Essay Advisor:

David Finegold, MD ________________________________________


Multidisciplinary Master of Public Health Program

Graduate School of Public Health

University of Pittsburgh
Essay Reader:

Martha Ann Terry, PhD ________________________________________

Assistant Professor and Director, MPH Program

Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences

Graduate School of Public Health

University of Pittsburgh

Essay Reader:

Robert J. Weyant, DMD, DrPH _________________________________________
Professor and Chair
Department of Dental Public Health
346 Salk, School of Dental Medicine
University of Pittsburgh

Copyright © by Meghan Bastin


David Finegold, MD


Meghan Bastin, MPH

University of Pittsburgh, 2015


There is more than one curriculum present in many schools in higher education. The hidden curriculum is the one that shapes the character and other intangible qualities of students. It is much more difficult to evaluate the hidden curriculum because its lessons result from the students’ unforeseen experiences during the formal educational process. A student’s dental home is their dental school and it should include all aspects of their dental education. The relationship between a student and their dental school should be comprehensive, accessible, and mutually supportive.

Everyone has a role to play in making the emotional climate of our health education institutions more respectful and nurturing. Many different stakeholders are starting to demand that environments change to be more responsive to the needs of the patients they serve as well as healthy places for people to work and learn.

Public Health Statement: As a profession, dentistry is entrusted with the responsibility for upholding the highest quality of care for the public. This quality care begins with a quality education. Dental school administrators, looking to improve the quality of their educational institutions, need to ensure that graduates will enter into the dental workforce with comparable quality standards. With the growing awareness of the importance of good oral health, well-educated, high-quality, health care professionals will be necessary to serve the public's needs.

This research aims to discover dental students’ perceptions of dental academia, as well as the quality of their experience in dental education through each of the four years of dental school. It specifically aims to identify areas of personal change as a result of the hidden curriculum over the course of four years.


Preface 7

1.0 Introduction 1

2.0 Background 3

1.1Standards 4

1.2Stress and Well-Being 6

1.3The Higher Price of Education 9

1.4Public Health 11

3.0 Methods 12

1.5Recruiting 13

1.6Sampling 14

1.7Focus Group Questions 15

1.8Analysis 16

4.0 Results 17

1.9Logistics 18

1.10Quality 19

1.11Perception Changes 20

1.12The Academic Dentist 24

1.13Environment and Culture 29

5.0 Discussion 36

1.14Learning Standards 37

1.15The Importance of Intangibles 40

1.16New Stakeholders 45

1.17Public Health Significance 48

1.18Limitations and Applications 50

6.0 Conclusion 51

Bibliography 52

Figure 1: Stages of Learning.........................................................................................................30


Before being introduced to the professional world of dentistry, I was a patient. I grew up in a rural western Pennsylvanian neighborhood and received semi-frequent dental care. An accident, caused by a baseball hitting my mouth, introduced me to different dental providers, including a dental hygienist who encouraged me to explore the profession as a career path. After completing a certificate in dental hygiene in 2009, I continued my education to receive a bachelor of science in dental hygiene in 2010. I began dental school in 2011 and then a master’s in public health in 2012. I will be attending an advanced education in general dentistry residency at a dental safety net clinic following graduation this year. My exact career goals are always evolving, but I plan to provide dental care to patient populations who may not have access to care otherwise.
I would like to thank Dr. Martha Ann Terry throughout the research, learning, and compilation processes for her support and inspiration. Her passion and talent when interacting with adult learners gave me the confidence to undertake this research. I would also like to thank Drs. Deborah Polk, Robert Weyant, and Alexandre Vieira for recognizing the importance and supporting original student research projects.

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