As suggested by the Helix logo, biomedical, preclinical, and clinical science subjects are integrated and combined with applied behavioral sciences in a program to prepare graduates to provide excellent quality dental care to the public and to enter a changing world that will require them to be critical thinkers and lifelong learners. The thirty-six month curriculum leading to the degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery begins in July and is divided into twelve quarters, each consisting of ten weeks of instruction, one week of examinations, and a vacation period of varying length (between one and four weeks).
During the first quarter, students practice use of dental instruments and materials, working position and posture using direct and indirect vision, and basic dental laboratory procedures, and are introduced to study and test-taking skills and methods of time management that will assist them in succeeding in the professional curriculum. Integrated biomedical science instruction in human anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, and microbiology is offered over the first eight quarters, followed by multidisciplinary presentations of basic science foundations for clinical topics such as the importance of saliva, tissue aging, nutrition, and infection control. Throughout the curriculum, students learn to apply basic science knowledge to clinical problems using the scientific method of inquiry.
Preclinical instruction is concentrated in the first four quarters with students learning to work from a seated position in a modern preclinical simulation laboratory and with a chair-side assistant in conjunction with pediatric dental practice. Clinical work with patients is initiated in the fourth quarter.
The school is a pioneer in competency-based dental education, an approach that replaces the traditional system of clinical requirements with experiences that ensure graduates possess the skills, understanding, and professional values needed for the independent practice of general dentistry. Pacific is also known for its humanistic approach to dental education, stressing the dignity of each individual and his or her value as a person.
The school's comprehensive patient care program is based on the concept of private dental practice where the student assumes responsibility for assigned patients' overall treatment, consultation, and referral for specialty care. Second-year students practice clinical dentistry fifteen hours per week, learning to provide comprehensive dental care under the direction of group practice administrators and multidisciplinary faculty from diagnostic sciences, periodontics, endodontics, orthodontics, removable prosthodontics, and restorative dentistry.
Third-year students practice clinical dentistry approximately thirty-three hours per week and provide care to all patients in his or her patient population. Occasionally other caregivers, a second- or third-year student or resident, complete certain procedures in any treatment plan. This is done through the Group Practice Leader(GPL) and requires the approval of the patient. The student dentist originally assigned to provide care to the patient maintains responsibility for care during all treatment provided by other students or residents.
In the third year, the group practice mentor (GPM) supervises oral diagnosis and treatment planning, emergencies, operative, and fixed prosthodontics, including test cases. There are three GPMs in each group practice during a clinic session and students work with all three mentors during the course of most appointments. The GPM monitors the progress of care and completes periodic case reviews with the patient and the student. In addition to care supervised by GPMs, the Complex Care Clinic allows students to treat more technically difficult restorative cases under the supervision of a trained prosthodontist with a low student- to-faculty ratio.
The second- and third-year class is divided alphabetically into eight groups. Each group practice is managed by a Group Practice Leader, who has responsibility for the care of patients by all students and faculty in the group practice. The other clinical disciplines are managed by faculty who do not have specific responsibility for a certain group of students. Specialists in endodontics and removable prosthodontics manage all of those cases in specified areas of the clinic, including test cases. Periodontists manage periodontal procedures.
Oral and maxillofacial surgery, implantology, pediatric dentistry, and radiology are learned in respective specialty clinics. Doctoral students participate with faculty and orthodontic residents in adjunctive orthodontic care and in oral development clinics. Third-year students also rotate through the Special Care Clinic to treat special needs patients in the dental clinic and hospital operating room.
Advanced clinical dentistry and evaluation of new developments and topics that involve several disciplines are learned in the third year in conjunction with patient care. Second- and third- year students participate in patient care at a number of extramural sites. These clinics are located in numerous treatment facilities around the Bay Area, and include hospitals, community clinics, and skilled nursing facilities. Pacific currently has affiliations with 15 clinics, a figure expected to grow in the future. At extramural clinic sites, students are taught by Pacific faculty in conditions that more closely resemble private practice. Students typically treat 4-6 patients during the course of a day. Rotations at these sites occur at a number of different times, including weekdays during the academic year, weekends, and vacation periods. Students typically find these experiences to be highly educational, teaching them how to provide excellent patient care in a more condensed time frame.
Behavioral science aspects of ethics, communication, human resource and practice management, and dental jurisprudence are integrated throughout the curriculum. Epidemiology and demography of the older population, basic processes of aging, and dental management of hospitalized patients, geriatric patients, and those with the most common disabling conditions are studied during the third year.
Students are counseled individually with regard to establishing a practice and applying for postgraduate education. A weekend conference devoted to new developments in dentistry serves to acquaint students with opportunities for postgraduate education and with alumni views of the realities of dental practice.
Over the next two years, the main clinic will undergo a number of changes in operations intended to improve student education and patient care:
One unit of credit is awarded for ten hours of lecture or seminar, twenty hours of laboratory or clinic, or thirty hours of independent study per term. Students are assigned to comprehensive care clinics for approximately 500 hours during the second year and 1,000 hours during the third, in addition to specialty clinic rotations. Units of credit are assigned in the comprehensive care clinical disciplines in proportion to the amount of time students spend providing specific types of care for assigned patterns.July 2012