The University of Alberta has moved to the forefront of dental education by becoming the first university in North America to form an integrated Faculty of Medicine and Oral Health Sciences.
The amalgamation of the Faculties of Medicine and Dentistry and Dental Hygiene will result in increased teaching efficiency, since dental students will take 80 percent of their first two years — foundation courses like immunology, pharmacology, and molecular biology — with their medical colleagues. The University expects to save $2.5 million annually through the amalgamation. Originally, the University had in 1994 recommended closure of the dental faculty at the end of the 1997-98 academic year, in part as a cost-cutting measure.
Dentistry and dental hygiene will now be taught in the Department of Oral Health Sciences in the new faculty. Associate dean of Medicine and Oral Health Sciences Wayne Raborn, who heads the new department, says integrated study with medicine will give students additional clinical experience and a greater understanding of oral health in the context of the entire human body. "What occurs in the mouth is often a reflection or result of other diseases," says Raborn. "The dentist of tomorrow needs a better understanding of many basic science disciplines."
A symposium this past May marked the formation of the new faculty. It featured some of the leading experts on integrated medical and dental education programs, which have been successfully established in Europe and South Africa.
Published Autumn 1996.