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ADEA’s Journal of Dental Education Features Case Study on Pacific Dental Helix Curriculum

June  26, 2013

A new case study published in the June issue of the Journal of Dental Education (JDE) showcases how the University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry designed and implemented its innovate Pacific Dental Helix Curriculum through a school-wide reform process starting several years ago.

“A Case Study on Development of an Integrated, Multidisciplinary Dental Curriculum” describes how the school’s academic leaders and faculty moved from a traditional siloed approach to an integrated curriculum, which uses case-based, integrated multidisciplinary courses to improve teaching and learning. The article describes the internal processes, challenges and benefits, including the overarching goal of creating a learning environment that pushes students to integrate and synthesize material at a higher level than what had been expected in the past.

In recent years, spurred by the American Dental Education Association’s Commission on Change and Innovation in Dental Education (ADEA CCI), North American dental educators have begun advocating for major curriculum reform in order to develop students with higher order thinking skills required for contemporary dentistry. Through its integrated curriculum, University of the Pacific is on the forefront of innovation in this important area.

The Pacific Dental Helix Curriculum is comprised of five unique but related “strands,” each managed by a small group of interdisciplinary faculty content experts. The strands are Integrated Medical Sciences (IMS), Integrated Preclinical Technique (IPT), Integrated Clinic Sciences (ICS), Clinical Practice (CP) and the Personalized Instructional Program (PIP). These strands are linked by the delivery of content across strands and the timing of learning experiences, as well as through faculty members teaching in multiple areas and courses. The model places a strong emphasis on active learning, critical thinking and integration across multiple disciplinary areas using small-group, case-based learning.

Ultimately, the Pacific Dental Helix Curriculum is designed to better equip graduates and future practitioners with the advanced thinking and reasoning skills required for the modern practice of dentistry now and into the future.

The case study was written by Dr. Nader Nadershahi, executive associate dean and associate dean of academic affairs, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry; Dr. Daniel Bender, assistant dean of academic affairs, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry; Dr. Lynn Beck, dean, Gladys L. Benerd School of Education, University of the Pacific; and Dr. Steven Alexander, a graduate of the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry and current orthodontic resident, University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston.

“We are glad to explain details of our curriculum in the spirit of sharing what we have learned and encouraging others to pursue curricular reform to benefit dental students and our profession as a whole,” said Dr. Nadershahi.

The JDE is a monthly peer-reviewed journal published by the American Dental Education Association. Since 1936, the JDE has provided coverage of the wide variety of scientific and educational research in dental education, allied dental education, and advanced dental education. The JDE is recognized as the premier publication for academic dentistry, covering topics including critical issues in dental education, evidence-based dentistry, faculty development, international perspectives, and more.

The case study is available online at Additional articles with detailed outcomes on each strand will be published in the JDE in coming months.

For more information about the Pacific Dental Helix Curriculum, visit

Category Type: General, Dental Issues and Research

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