COL, USAF (Ret), DC
In the fall of 2007 the Assistant Surgeon General (Chief of Dental Services) of the USAF requested the President USU explore the possibility of awarding a master’s degree in conjunction with the Advanced Education in General Dentistry – 2 Year (AEGD-2) Program in San Antonio. A site visit was made to San Antonio and the idea was discussed with three civilian Dental School Deans (Illinois, Maryland, and Rochester). The American Dental Association (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) was consulted and a decision was made to explore the concept of founding a separate Postgraduate Dental School within the University. A proposal to establish a branch campus in San Antonio and charter a Postgraduate Dental School there was introduced at the Feb 2008 USU Board of Regents (BOR) meeting. Following discussion and the expression of strong interest on the part of Navy Medicine to participate, the proposal was referred back to the Senior Vice President, USU, for further expansion. Consultation with both the Air Force and Naval resulted in a refined proposal – to create a Postgraduate Dental College (PDC) composed of service specific Postgraduate Dental Schools. In November 2008, the BOR recommended the establishment of the Postgraduate Dental College with the initial schools being an Air Force school in San Antonio and a Navy school in Bethesda. Program graduates would earn a Master of Science (MS) in Oral Biology degree from the University. The Army offered no opposition but had no immediate plans for participation. The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs issued a charter in December 2008 and the University applied to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) for a substantial change in accreditation – the creation of a new school and the opening of a branch campus. The MSCHE granted the substantial change in February 2010, with the understanding that the Commission would conduct a site visit within six months of the initiation of the instruction.
Through the autumn of 2009 and winter of 2010 the PDC prepared for the matriculation of its first students. Faculty members were appointed who subsequently reviewed the first students for admission. By July 2010 the PDC was up and running and a site visit by MSCHE was hosted shortly thereafter. Soon the Army requested affiliation with the PDC for programs in comprehensive dentistry at Fort Bragg, Fort Hood, and Scofield Barracks. This required another substantive change request with the MSCHE. BOR approval was sought and received. New faculty for the Army programs were appointed and students were admitted. By summer 2011, all three services were affiliated and the PDC was conducting master’s degree programs at five sites. In 2012, twenty-eight students graduated from the first classes at Bethesda and Lackland. In autumn 2012, the Air Force requested affiliation of the comprehensive dentistry and endodontics programs at Keesler AFB and endodontics program at Lackland. The first students of these new programs matriculated in summer 2013 following the process now well established. MSCHE declined a site visit to the new additional site at Keesler noting that “USUHS had already proven that it could conduct quality dental programs!” In 2013 the Army requested affiliation of three more programs at Fort Gordon – periodontics, endodontics, and prosthodontics - and another endodontics program at Fort Bragg. All were approved in similar fashion and the new masters students matriculated in July 2014. In 2014, the Air Force requested affiliation for the Prosthodontics program at Lackland. Following process completion with BOR approval, the first students matriculated in July of 2015.
The PDC currently has 174 students under instruction, with 220 faculty at seven different sites, teaching seven different disciplines of dentistry across 19 different programs. Sixty-six students graduated from PDC programs and earned MS degrees in 2016, with seventy-one students projected for graduation in 2017, and eighty-one in 2018. To date, 247 PDC students from the Army, Navy, Air Force, VA, US Public Health Service and the Canadian Forces have earned Master of Science in Oral Biology degrees from the USU.
Affiliation of Dental PGY1 Certificate Programs
In May of 2015, the USU hosted the Federal Services Dental Educators’ Workshop (FSDEW) for the first time. The workshop is held annually and allows more than 100 dental educators from the Army, Navy, and Air Force graduate programs to meet and obtain faculty development training, as well as share best practice ideas and develop strategies for educational and research collaborations. By holding the FSDEW at USU, military dental faculty were able to tour the campus (many for the first time) and learn about the University’s state-of-the-art educational resources.
Following the workshop, there was a groundswell of interest in affiliation with the PDC from Army, Navy, and Air Force Program Directors of the non-USU affiliated Advanced Education in General Dentistry 1-Year (AEGD-1) and General Practice Residency (GPR) certificate programs.
As discussions progressed, the Services realized that by omitting these foundational 1-yr programs from PDC affiliation, opportunities afforded by USU were being missed by the junior faculty and student dentists in their first assignment after graduation from Dental School, who composed these programs. Including the 1-yr programs, whose graduates earn certificates but no advanced degree or academic credit, would complete the structure for military postgraduate dental education and create a true educational continuum under University auspices. These programs, like the degree-granting military graduate programs, are accredited by the CODA.
The process described above followed and the BOR approved the concept in February of 2016. The final step before implementation of this expanded affiliation will be the execution of new or modified Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) between the University and the Services. The Air Force completed the MOU procedures in time for matriculation in August of 2016 at its 10 locations. Army (6 programs) and Navy (10 programs) affiliation is anticipated within the next year. Addition of these 26 programs will add approximately 170 additional students and 240 faculty members to the PDC.