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Breaking Glass Ceilings

Explore the inspiring journey of Prof Dr Rosnah Binti Mohd Zain as she breaks glass ceilings in dentistry. Gain insights into her achievements, challenges, and contributions to the field.

By Prof Dr Rosnah Binti Mohd Zain

“The proliferation of social media has led to a surge in patient self-diagnosis and management, often based on potentially inaccurate information. As a result, dental graduates must possess a comprehensive understanding of their dental practices and be adept at discerning the reliability of information disseminated through social media, thereby preparing them to address social media-related issues in their professional practice”

Dental education encompasses the comprehensive training required to become a proficient dentist. In Malaysia, training of dentists began in 1972 at University of Malaya. During those years in the 1970s and mid-1980s, the focus of dental student training leaned heavily towards honing practical skills, alongside the introduction of basic sciences in the initial years (preclinical sciences). At that time, dental training typically spanned four years. However, many students found it challenging to grasp the relevance of preclinical sciences to their clinical studies, leading to questions about the necessity of learning medical sciences. The connection between these foundational sciences and their application to dental clinical training was not readily apparent to students.

Recognizing these concerns, as time progressed, dental educators initiated the integration of basic sciences with dental clinical sciences. This shift aimed to provide students with a deeper understanding of the role of basic sciences in elucidating the causes, diagnosis, and management of clinical processes from the outset of their education.

The evolving landscape of dental education presented challenges for educators in ensuring seamless integration of basic and clinical sciences across all levels of instruction.

Current Status:

The dental education landscape in Malaysia has notable strengths, particularly in providing students with robust practical experience, especially in general dentistry, thanks to the ample patient pool available. The emphasis on the fundamental aspects of dentistry, such as restorative dental practices, aligns with global standards and stands out as a key advantage. Moreover, at a general dental practitioner level, the country’s strength in oral surgical practices surpasses that of some more advanced nations, largely due to the abundance of patients available for training purposes.

However, as the number of dental schools increases, these strengths may gradually transition into weaknesses. Challenges arise from the growing difficulty in identifying suitable patients for student training and the escalating need for additional qualified dental educators.

Notably, the evolution of technology has significantly impacted the training of dental students, with most institutions integrating technological advances into their programs. It is crucial, however, to exercise caution and ensure a solid grasp of the fundamentals before introducing these technological advancements.

There has been a significant shift in the dental curriculum, driven by the recognition of past inadequacies such as the lack of integration between basic sciences and practical applications. This transformation aligns with the broader changes in Malaysian Higher Education, particularly the transition to an outcome-based education (OBE) model, which places a stronger emphasis on learner-centered approaches compared to the traditional teacher-centered education.

Outcome-based education (OBE) is centered on clearly defining the desired learning outcomes or competencies that students are expected to demonstrate by the end of their learning period. This approach prioritizes the identification of the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that learners should acquire, and then tailoring the curriculum, instruction, and assessment to align with these predetermined outcomes. OBE ensures that students attain specific, measurable results, often by aligning educational objectives with real-world applications, industry needs, and societal expectations.

Furthermore, the implementation of OBE encourages dental educators to design curricula that seamlessly integrate basic sciences into clinical teaching from the outset of training. As a result, numerous curricular changes have led to the development of modules that go beyond traditional basic sciences like Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, Pharmacology, and Pathology, fostering the creation of integrated modules such as “The Mouth in Health and Diseases.” However, significant challenges arise in reshaping educators’ mindsets and addressing the need for additional educators to develop these integrated modules. Consequently, many schools currently still rely on basic medical sciences modules but strive to foster integration through case-based discussions and seminars that encompass several disciplines.

These approaches necessitate small-group, student-centered teaching and learning methods, employing various teaching methodologies such as Problem-based Learning and Case-based Learning. Dental educators have increasingly embraced these student-centered teaching and learning methodologies, incorporating reasoning into problem-solving skills, implementing corrective feedback methods, and emphasizing repetitive learning to enhance the educational experience.

Future Trends:

Dental education of the future will demand a heightened focus on the development of soft skills as an integral part of training. This encompasses honing communication skills for interactions with both team members and patients, as well as the cultivation of desirable attitudes, notably empathy towards patients.

With a growing number of patients actively seeking information online, any gaps in information or miscommunication from dentists could potentially lead to legal ramifications initiated by the patients. Consequently, future dentists must receive thorough training in effectively relaying accurate information to their patients and maintaining meticulous record-keeping practices to mitigate the risk of legal issues.

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