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As the importance of life-long learrning grows, not only are more people desiring to study beyond basic formal education, but education providers also have to provide high quality courses that are made as accessible as possible. This issue of CDTL Brief examines some of the issues surrounding Continuing Education/Distance Learning.

March 2002, Vol. 5 No. 1 Print Ready ArticlePrint-Ready
Continuing Education in Dentistry
 
Professor Chew Chong Lin
Director, Graduate School of Dental Studies
Faculty of Dentistry, National University of Singapore
 

The Need for Continuing Education

‘Thinking Schools, Learning Nation’: this is what Singapore is striving for. It also means that learning is a continual process and that we do not stop learning or slow down our learning when we graduate with our first degree. In clinical dentistry, it is vital that we keep ourselves up-to-date with the latest technologies, materials and knowledge that are being developed to help dentists provide the best treatment for our patients. A failure to keep current would be a failure in our professional responsibilities. In addition, dentistry, like medicine, is moving into evidence-based practice. How can we achieve our goal of being a responsible practitioner unless we actively attend continuing education courses?

Patients that we treat today are markedly different from those we saw twenty years ago. As information on oral health and ways of managing dental problems is easily available on the Internet, dental professionals must be well informed to help patients understand what they obtain from the Net. In a true scenario, a female patient went to see a dentist requesting for treatment using dental implants. The dentist explained the procedures involved and the advantages and limitations of the treatment. At the end of the discussion, the patient declared: “Doctor, I agree to have you treat me because you have a clear explanation of treatment using dental implants. Actually, my husband surfed the Net and read about it. Since you know about this treatment modality, I am confident you will do a good job.” Imagine what would have been the result if the dentist had lacked the latest information regarding the subject. Losing the patient is one thing. Giving the patient a poor opinion of our profession would be something else.

Continuing Education at GSDS

As part of NUS, the Graduate School of Dental Studies (GSDS) must play a leading role in continuing education not just locally, but also beyond our shores. Together with other organisations like the National Dental Centre, Singapore Dental Association, College of General Dental Practitioners, Academy of Medicine and the Specialist Societies, GSDS seeks to ensure that there are an adequate number of courses to meet an ever-increasing demand for continuing education programmes that dentists and supporting personnel can attend.

Each year at GSDS, a number of courses are conducted ranging from lectures to, especially, hands-on programmes. Some of these hands-on courses are laboratory based (e.g. root canal therapy, dental implants, cosmetic dentistry), while others are clinically based (e.g. periodontics). For 2002, courses planned include Cosmetic Dentistry, Dental Implants, Endodontics, Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, Pediatric Dentistry and Periodontics. GSDS is fortunate to have a group of committed full and part-time staff (from Singapore and overseas) to develop and conduct its various programmes.

To improve the quality of its programmes (particularly laboratory-based courses), the Faculty of Dentistry recently had an extensive overhaul of its facilities. The pre-clinical teaching laboratory was renovated at a cost of over $2,000,000 to include amenities such as patient simulators, close circuit cameras and a video system connected to high-resolution computer screens that can also provide multimedia services. Through generous donations from alumni and well wishers during the 70th anniversary celebrations of the Dental Faculty, a Clinical Teaching Unit was set up, containing a state-of-the-art operating microscope, with intra-oral video cameras and TV monitors, to enhance teaching and learning in hands-on clinical courses. The new extension at Level 4 of the Dental Faculty, which was officially opened on 1 December 2001 by the President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Shih Choon Fong, includes a 150-seat auditorium for lecture programmes. The auditorium, pre-clinical laboratory and Clinical Teaching Unit are linked audio-visually to enable clinical procedures performed at the Clinic to be transmitted to the auditorium and laboratory.

In the future, GSDS intends to provide continuing education beyond courses conducted on-site at the Dental Faculty’s premises. By taking advantage of NUS’ rich store of IT resources, GSDS plans to develop computer-based interactive programmes for self study and distance learning as well as to utilise video-conferencing to conduct courses led by foreign experts without them having to come to Singapore.

Conclusion

For it to work, the idea of continuing education should be introduced before our students have graduated. We should cultivate a learning culture within our undergraduates so that it will be part of their continual learning process when they graduate. Consequently, we should encourage them to attend continuing education courses conducted by any relevant organisation even during their undergraduate days.

 
 
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Inside this issue
Distance and Distributed Learning in Continuing Education: Notes from the Front Lines
   
Continuing Education through the Online Graduate Programme at the University of Calgary
   
Life-long Learning: What Does It Mean for Us?
   
Continuous Education/Distance Learning: GSMS Graduate Diploma Programmes
   
Continuing Education in Dentistry
   
Learning to Go the Distance: A Decade of Expanding Opportunities for Distance Learning in Thailand