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Dr. Richard ValachovicIn this month’s letter, Dr. Rick Valachovic previews a groundbreaking overseas meeting and describes other milestones in ADEA’s journey to advance global cooperation in dental education.

Question: What do Uganda, Sri Lanka and Peru have in common?

Answer: You can find Journal of Dental Education (JDE) readers in all three countries—not to mention in scores of others around the globe.

In a single week this past August, JDE articles were downloaded or viewed online more than 100 times in Finland, Turkey and Malaysia. JDE articles were accessed more than 1,000 times in Australia, India and Germany—and thousands more times across another 90 countries. If these statistics don’t confirm the JDE’s role as a vehicle for disseminating knowledge internationally, I don’t know what would.

As impressive as the numbers may be, they represent just one facet of ADEA’s current strategic commitment to “[s]erve as a collaborative partner in the global effort to improve oral and overall health.” In fact, ADEA began looking outward long before these words were enshrined in our strategic directions. In 2005, ADEA cofounded the International Federation of Dental Educators and Associations (IFDEA), and in 2007, our Association met with colleagues from 66 nations at an IFDEA summit in Dublin, Ireland, to launch a new era of international collaboration. Today, that global effort—temporarily slowed by the economic impacts of the recession—is going strong, and dental educators from around the world are looking to ADEA as a valued resource and partner.

In an era of increasing globalization, it comes as no surprise that U.S. dental educators are contributing to change and innovation at both established and newer dental schools on every continent (see the Spring 2015 ADEA CCI Liaison Ledger). Many large U.S. universities now have satellite programs abroad, and a few of these include global outposts of their dental schools. An association known as the Consortium of Universities for Global Health has grown exponentially in recent years, and its Global Oral Health Interest Group was one of the first special interest groups to be approved by that organization.

ADEA is also actively engaged in a wide range of activities that benefit our international colleagues and enlarge our own understanding of dental health and education. We can boast three global initiatives in 2016 alone and a groundbreaking event planned for 2017. Let’s start there, because I hope I can entice some of you to join us in London next spring for ADEE/ADEA 2017—the first joint meeting of ADEA and the Association for Dental Education in Europe (ADEE).

This highly interactive meeting will focus on four themes and give participants an opportunity to take part in shaping the future of dental education. How? Up to six hours of protected discussion time has been set aside so that attendees can engage in substantive discussion and work to develop a consensus around best practices related to four areas: 

Senior faculty from both continents will serve as chairs and facilitators for each working group, and a handpicked cadre of junior faculty will serve as rapporteurs, assisting the workshop facilitators in two ways: by participating in the literature review process that will precede the meeting and by writing four position papers that will capture the attendees’ views. These papers are intended to help guide ADEA and ADEE members in responding to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for dental education, and I, for one, am excited to see what writing them collaboratively will reveal.

We anticipate that representatives from around the world will attend the meeting, scheduled for May 8–9, 2017. In addition to the working sessions, the meeting will feature:

  • A keynote address by medical futurist, university lecturer and widely published author Bertalan Meskó, M.D., Ph.D.
  • A reception in the magnificent Governors Hall of St. Thomas’s Hospital in the heart of London.

The call for posters is now open, and registration for the meeting will open by early December. I hope to see many of you there.

The joint meeting builds on our longstanding close relationship with ADEE and the conscious effort we have made for decades to reach out to the global dental education community. In 2016 alone, we added a feature to the JDE website allowing readers to translate the html text of articles into 90 languages—vastly increasing their accessibility to our overseas readers. We hosted a three-day ADEA CareerCon—an online gathering designed with foreign-trained and North American dentists in mind. And we entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with our sister association in Japan, the Japanese Dental Education Association (JDEA). The JDEA represents all 29 Japanese dental schools, and we look forward to sharing our expertise and developing joint initiatives to advance the mission, vision and objectives of each organization.

Where else has this global journey taken us? In recent years, ADEA members and staff have traveled to international meetings in Riga, Latvia; Szeged, Hungary; Bangkok, Thailand; and Poznań, Poland, to name a few. We’ve hosted five ADEA International Women’s Leadership Conferences in Canada, Sweden, France, Brazil and, most recently, in Barcelona, Spain—where we collaborated with ADEE to sponsor an international workshop on global standards for dental education.

Closer to home, we’ve been busy contributing to a thriving virtual community of educators hungry for materials to build or enhance the curricula used to prepare new dentists for practice in their home countries. These educators can avail themselves of a host of free online teaching, learning and assessment resources and materials through:

  • MedEdPORTAL®, our open-access curricular collaboration with the Association of American Medical Colleges.
  • ADEA weTeach®, a user-friendly gateway—launched this past year—providing teaching, learning and assessment resources.
  • The ADEA Curriculum Resource Center, a web portal that, in addition to containing high-quality learning materials (curriculum guides, slide decks, bibliographies, case studies and handouts designed to be easily incorporated into faculty-developed courses), also supports the work of dental educators abroad.

As mentioned before, our journal, the JDE, plays a central role in extending ADEA’s global reach. In addition to publishing several dozen articles in recent years that focus on global health, the JDE also provides content specifically aimed at its international readers. Two examples: A 2013 Perspectives piece by two Australian dental educators provides guidance for international authors on scholarly research and writing, and a 2014 paper describes U.S. career pathways for foreign-educated dentists.

While U.S. authors continue to lead in JDE submissions, the journal has seen a steady flow of manuscripts from other shores. Indian and Brazilian authors have averaged 85 and 32 submissions a year, respectively, since 2010, and our colleagues from Canada, Iran, Turkey, China, Australia and Malaysia also have an impressive record of submitting manuscripts for consideration. Submissions from Saudi Arabia have grown at an especially rapid rate—from six in 2010 to 38 in 2015.

ADEA also serves students from other countries through ExploreHealthCareers.org. A leading resource for individuals seeking information about health careers, the website has logged over 340,000 visitors from outside the United States in the year ending August 2016.

Of course, international collaboration lies at the heart of our Association in a fundamental way that we sometimes overlook. Because ADEA represents both Canadian and U.S. dental schools and programs, we are continually prompted to view the issues that confront us through an international lens. Given the position the United States holds in the world, sustaining that outlook can be a challenge for many of us. Fortunately, cooperative agreements and frequent interaction with our sister associations around the world remind us to look outside our borders and engage with colleagues who bring an international perspective to our discussions. I look forward to experiencing this interchange firsthand in London and seeing where our global journey takes us next.

Related content from previous issues of Charting Progress

The Personal Becomes Political: A Global Phase Down of Dental Amalgam
A Small Step for Global Health With Big Implications for Dental Education
Dental Education: An Expanding Universe 
A Warm Day in Adelaide