Creating the dental school faculty of the future: a guide for the perplexed.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Building the faculty of the future has to be rooted in understanding the nature of future oral health delivery practices. Unfortunately, no one can reliably predict that future. Accepting any given scenario inevitably requires a leap of faith, but the cost of guessing wrong is high. In considering full-time academic careers, students are often not well prepared to make such a definitive choice. When dental educators ask dental students to consider academic life, what we are really doing is trying to induce them to make a very dramatic break with their settled career aspirations, which have already been firmly established in the minds of many of our students. The reality is that being a full-time professor of dentistry is more like being a professor in any other university discipline than it is like being a dentist in practice. Thus, the appeal of dental school to most applicants as a pathway to a practice/business career and existing admissions practices unintentionally bias the system against identifying future educators. Dental education is now engaged in a predictable blend of temporary, short-term, intermediate, and long-term approaches to finding faculty. Among these approaches are the following: cannibalizing other dental schools, collaborating with other professional schools, recruiting retired dentists, and growing our own faculty based on positive role modeling. The high cost of a dental education and the relatively low compensation of dental faculty are disincentives for some students who might otherwise consider dental education as a career option. However, the differential compensation between faculty members and owner/proprietors of dental practices may be misleading because of the business risks the latter assume. Understanding this means that dental schools might be more successful in finding future faculty by focusing on dental school applicants who fit the profile of employees rather than businesspeople because the lifetime differential in income nearly vanishes when comparisons are made between the categories of faculty member and employed dentist. At present, educators rely on a lack of self-knowledge among students in the hope that some who thought they wanted to be dentists will discover that they are ill-suited for practice and can be converted to becoming educators instead. It is not an optimal arrangement. Among practical suggestions to enhance recruitment of faculty are innovations in imprinting students early with the identity of being an educator and, in association with this concept, assisting with financing the education of future teachers. Ultimately, success in the dental educational enterprise will depend on attracting individuals who are intrinsically captivated by teaching as a moral vocation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1267-1280
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of dental education
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Dentistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Creating the dental school faculty of the future: a guide for the perplexed.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this