Career Compass

Path to academic dentistry: From dental student to professor

Over the past few decades, there has been an increased concern of a national dental faculty shortage. The American Dental Education Association published its first report in 1999 outlining this issue and has been tracking the national shortfall since then. Between the 1990s and 2000s, the number of vacant faculty positions increased more than 50 percent. Dental school enrollment increased roughly 9 percent during that same period.

The faculty shortage may be worse than it appears. In 2014, ADEA data showed that more than 50 percent of faculty were older than age 50 and 63 percent of faculty were part-time. This suggests that younger educators may not be replacing older ones, and more than half of faculty are not full-time.

One reason for increased vacancies may be that dentists are unaware of the varying levels of involvement in the field. Involvement can range from part-time lecturer to research scientist who operates a laboratory. Further, a Ph.D. requirement is a common misbelief and deterrent to pursuing a career in dental academia. According to the University of Pittsburgh’s University Times, Dr. Heiko Spallek, the former associate dean for faculty development at the School of Dental Medicine, noted that of the 185 faculty members in 2013, fewer than one percent had formal training in educational methodologies.

Finish reading this article in the January 2021 issue of Contour magazine.

~Alisha Nanji, Harvard ’23

Alisha Nanji

Alisha Nanji is in the class of 2023 at Harvard School of Dental Medicine.

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