Curriculum Guidelines for the Development of Graduate Programs in Oral Biology
Reprinted from: Journal of Dental Education 50:8 (1986)
The following guidelines are the result of efforts by the Section on Oral Biology within the American Association of Dental Schools. They were developed and reviewed by the Council of Sections Administrative Board and the Executive Committee.
Although the guidelines are recommendations only, their use as program development aids is suggested by official Association policy. Any questions on these guidelines may be addressed to the Executive Director or the chairman of the Section on Oral Biology.
These guidelines have been developed for use by educational institutions as program development aids. They are not official policy statements of the AADS and should not be construed as recommendations for restrictive requirements.
The program guidelines committee of the Section on Oral Biology consisted of the following:
Dr. Israel Kleinberg, State University of New York at Stony Brook (Co-chairman)
Dr. Richard Suddick, University of Texas at San Antonio (Co-chairman)
Dr. Solon E. Ellison, Columbia University
Dr. Don Strachan, University of Michigan
Dr. Murray Robinovitch, University of Washington
A. Definition of Oral Biology
Oral biology is that area of knowledge that deals with the structure, development, and function of the oral tissues; their interrelationships; and their relation to other organ systems in both health and disease.
B. Objectives of an Oral Biology Graduate Program
C. Need for Oral Biology Graduate Programs
The rapid emergence of oral biology as a discipline during the last two decades has occurred because of the compelling need for (a) biological science teaching related to dentistry; (b) research programs that lead to a better understanding of oral biological systems; and (c) discovery of new and improved methods for diagnosing, preventing, and controlling oral disease. By providing a focus for the traditional basic health sciences, oral biology has laid a foundation for the further development and expansion of the knowledge base upon which the clinical subjects of the dental curriculum and dental practice necessarily rest.
D. Definition of Key Words and Phrases
The Council on Dental Education of the ADA has adopted the following definitions related to graduate study in oral biology:
Program: "A program is a planned sequence of courses designed to provide the educational experience and training required for the acquisition of an advanced degree. A program does not have the same meaning as a course." For example, a number of courses such as anatomy, oral pathology, physiology, and others may be included in a graduate program leading to a Master of Science degree, or courses by these titles might be included in a postgraduate program and lead to a certificate of proficiency.
Graduate Programs: These are programs of study in a university graduate school. They may be carried on jointly with advanced training in clinical specialties and should provide the advanced student with greater depth of knowledge in specific areas of science and research methodology.
A thesis based on original research should be required to complete the graduate program. An academic degree such as Master of Science (M . S. ) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is awarded in recognition of the candidate's level of achievement. On completion of graduate programs in oral biology, candidates should be well prepared for careers in teaching and research.
Postgraduate Programs: Postgraduate programs in various clinical disciplines including a general practice residency can be established in conjunction with graduate programs in oral biology. Clinical training can be provided by colleges of dentistry, hospitals, and medical schools. These clinical programs provide advanced study to dentists seeking special knowledge and skills in clinical disciplines. A candidate is awarded a certificate upon satisfactory completion of the postgraduate portion of the program.
Oral biology by its nature interrelates with all the clinical disciplines of dentistry; the exact character of the relationship varies from one discipline to another. At the same time, there is a close relationship between oral biology and the traditional basic health sciences of anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology, pathology, and pharmacology. Oral biology builds on these disciplines and integrates and applies them in varying degrees to the study of oral and orally related problems. As a consequence, the oral biologist is the one best suited to act as a "bridge" of knowledge and expertise between the basic health sciences and the clinical science disciplines within dental schools.
The curriculum for most graduate programs within a university consists of didactic and research components. The didactic portion for advanced training in oral biology should include instruction that provides first for an overall coverage of oral biology as generally described by the topics outlined in the AADS oral biology guidelines. The program of instruction also should provide advanced course offerings both within and outside the field of oral biology that meet the specific goals of the candidate and fit within the framework of the overall oral biology program. The research portion should provide the exposure and experience necessary for development of the critical thinking and laboratory and experimental skills that are fundamental to the exploration of new ideas and the development of new areas of knowledge. Much greater depth in both the didactic and research components of the curriculum differentiates the Ph.D. from the M.S. programs in oral biology.
The applicant for advanced training in oral biology should have an adequate background in the physical and biological sciences. Oral biology training initiated prior to graduation from dental school is acceptable if it is conducted at the graduate level. This training may be credited to or given in a program leading to a doctorate or Master of Science degree.
It would be desirable for the applicant to have a background in a core program in oral biology as set out in the AADS oral biology guidelines; otherwise, this should be part of the graduate oral biology course work.
The applicant's academic standing should meet minimum requirements for acceptance into the graduate school of the university. Transcripts and letters of reference should be required. GRE scores, undergraduate and other college records, and interviews are recommended. Applicants whose native language is not English should be required to submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).
VI. Degrees Awarded
The oral biology program should be in a position to offer graduate programs leading to the M.S. and/or Ph.D. degrees. The M.S. program should generally be of two to three years' duration and should be used primarily for dental graduates who wish to obtain additional basic science training before or concurrent with training in a clinical specialty. The Ph.D. program should generally be of four years' duration and be designed for, in addition to dental graduates, those with suitable backgrounds in biological science, including graduates in medicine. Ph.D. programs in oral biology combined with D.D.S. or D.M.D., M.D., or clinical specialties should be encouraged.
Faculty involved in an oral biology graduate program should have a broad range of research interests and diverse backgrounds in order to be able to change emphasis with changing conditions and provide students with a wide range of opportunities.
Graduate Research. Research undertaken with the supervision of a faculty member to provide exposure to different areas of investigation. The purpose of this research is to assist the student in selecting the research area of his or her dissertation or in doing research on the topic, once it has been chosen. Graduate research is carried out prior to the advancement to candidacy examination.
Thesis Research. Original investigation undertaken with the supervision of a faculty member; it may be done after the advancement to candidacy examination has been successfully completed.
Sequencing of courses, laboratories, and research will depend partly on the curricular structure of an institution, the availability of faculty for teaching or supervision, and the individual interests of candidates for whom variables within the program are being tailored.
The structure of graduate programs may vary greatly from one institution to another. Some institutions may choose to concentrate initially on didactic components with little or virtually no research activities. As the program progresses, the didactic components lessen, with progressively more involvement in research. Other programs may offer a different balance of didactics and research during various stages of the program, but achieve the same overall goal. It is the responsibility of the program director to overcome any sequencing difficulties or obstacles in order to ensure that the overall goals of the program are being met.
In general, basic and clinical sciences fundamental to understanding advanced aspects of oral biology should precede the advanced courses. Prior to beginning a research endeavor, some background on research methodology and design, statistics, and specific laboratory skills should be left to the discretion of the program director to allow the director to work within the capabilities, limitations, and policies of the particular institution.
A well-qualified faculty is the primary requisite for an acceptable graduate training program in oral biology. A major portion of the training must be under the supervision of faculty who have had advanced training in oral biology or who, through their own efforts, have achieved advanced knowledge and skills in the discipline.
Institutions offering graduate programs in oral biology must provide staff support that is sufficient to provide broad exposure for the trainee.
The faculty should include individuals who have demonstrated ability to carry out research on problems related to oral biology. Optimally, staff should be selected on the basis of ability to arouse student curiosity and imagination, and to guide the development of critical judgment. There must be a sufficient number of faculty and support personnel to ensure a guided experience and close supervision.
Editor's Note : The Section on Oral Biology also considered the administration and operation of an oral biology program and included recommendations pertaining to such matters as student selection, student advisory committees, course requirements, advancement to candidacy examinations, research and dissertation requirements, financial aid, facilities, and an economic forecast. This material is contained in an addendum and is available on request from the secretary of the Section on Oral Biology or the AADS Central Office.