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A spotlight on ADEA’s Academic Dental Careers Fellowship Program at Dental College of Georgia

The ADEA Academic Dental Careers Fellowship Program (ADCFP) was founded in 2006 and to date, over 400 dental students from 40 different U.S. and Canadian schools have taken part in it. The goal of the program is to discover and contribute to future dental faculty and researchers through one-on-one mentorship between current dental school faculty and students interested in academic dentistry. Through the program, faculty and students work together on a research or teaching project. While doing this, faculty members also help students understand the daily experiences of a dental school faculty member, to hear the personal reflections of faculty, to understand and apply best practices in learning and research, and to plan an academic career.

The ADCFP is managed by a liaison at each academic program. Dr. Rhoda Sword is the liaison at the Dental College of Georgia (DCG) and shares her experiences and goals for the program. 

Dr. Sword decided to take on the ADEA ADCFP liaison position after being involved in the program as a mentor years ago, finding it to be a very meaningful experience. DCG had not had a liaison for a few years, and when the school wanted to bring the program back, Dr. Sword was asked to take on the role. She said she gladly accepted.

“I am very passionate about introducing students to the field of academic dentistry, and I enjoy providing them with the option to have a mentor and to see the ‘behind the scenes’ of academics,” she says. “I love that this will potentially enhance the pipeline of students interested in a career in academia down the line. I truly believe in the projects the students are working on and their role in guiding educational research and projects here at DCG.”

Dr. Sword is most excited about having the opportunity to enhance the diversity of students at DCG considering academic dentistry and encouraging all students to consider the field, especially those who previously wouldn’t have seen themselves as a faculty member. 

There are 10 students in the program at DCG, involved in four different departments: restorative dentistry, general dentistry, endodontics and oral diagnostic sciences. Two of the 10 students took the research track and the other seven did the educational track. Some of the projects at DCG include a welcome video for D1s, maintaining your mannequin and equipment in sim lab, tracking the knowledge of students in an introductory endodontic course, research between dental emergencies and COVID-19, integrating peer feedback in a D1 course, diversity in dentistry and analysis of how important that is, and assessing critical thinking. 

Dr. Sword expresses that it has been exciting to see the collaboration between faculty and students and the different projects and ideas that have come about from the mentorships. Her goal is to get as many faculty and students involved and for the program to continue to grow at DCG. She hopes that students look back on the experience as impactful and that they consider paying it forward by returning as faculty to inspire the future generations of dentists.

Dr. Sword is also involved in a separate research project using focus groups to see how effective the ADEA ADCFP is at DCG. The goal of the project is to investigate how impactful the project is, what students most enjoyed about it and learned, and to identify the areas where it could be improved. A background survey was done of the entire school to hear from students not involved in the program as a “control” to determine what helps them decide what they are doing after school, including their possible plans for involvement in academic dentistry.

For other schools looking to get involved with the ADEA ADCFP, Dr. Sword’s advice is to “just jump in and do it!” She explains that ADEA has been flexible with the program and the projects that fit into the program because the main focus is to facilitate the mentor-mentee relationship to expose and encourage as many students as possible to consider dental education as a career. 

Students involved in the ADEA ADCFP at DCG and across the country will present poster presentations at the ADEA Virtual Annual Session this March.

~Stephanie Jaipaul, Georgia ’22, ASDA Electronic Editor

Stephanie Jaipaul

Stephanie Jaipaul is a current third-year dental student at the Dental College of Georgia. She has served ASDA in the past as an electronic editor, district 4 professional relations chair and is currently the immediate past president of the ASDA chapter at DCG.

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