INDIANAPOLIS – As they took their first step onto the educational path to their careers in dentistry, 104 new Indiana University dental students pledged their commitment to professionalism and high ethical standards during an IU School of Dentistry white coat ceremony Aug. 10.
Joining the incoming dental students for this year’s ceremony on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus were 22 dentists enrolled in the dental school’s inaugural International Dentist Program. The international program offers an opportunity for dentists who received their degrees outside the U.S. to earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree at IU. A dental degree from an accredited U.S. dental school is required of foreign-trained dentists who wish to become licensed to practice in the U.S.
Earlier this year, IU joined about two dozen other U.S. and Canadian dental schools that have organized similar programs. The schools participate in a centralized advanced-placement application process for international dentists that is managed by the American Dental Education Association.
IU’s International Dentist Program, which is tailored to individual student progress, is expected to reduce the training from the four years required in the traditional DDS program to two years for students who have already received dental degrees abroad.
The 22 members of the International Dentist Program come from 10 nations and were selected from an applicant pool of 157 dentists. Their anticipated graduation date is 2015.
IU’s traditional DDS class of 2017 is composed of 57 women and 47 men selected from a national applicant pool of 1,412 candidates. They have come from 19 states to enter the dental school’s four-year doctoral program; 74 are Indiana residents.
Although more than half the students are biology majors, the class reflects a diversity of interests, with undergraduate majors in such wide-ranging fields as architecture, communications and religious studies; 64 members pursued their undergraduate studies at colleges and universities in the Hoosier state.
During the white coat ceremony, students of both classes were presented with a white medical coat embroidered with their own names and the school’s in recognition of their entry into the health care community. The coats are also a symbol of their commitment to uphold the highest standards of professionalism and ethics in their contributions to the dental profession. As in past years, the incoming dental class composed its own pledge. Recitation of the pledge is the first and last act of each IU dental class — students recite it at the white coat ceremony and then reconfirm their commitment by reciting it four years later at commencement.
Dean John Williams presided over the ceremony and welcomed the students on behalf of the School of Dentistry. Third-year IU dental student Annissa Michael welcomed the students on behalf of the American Student Dental Association in her role as president of the IU chapter.
Indianapolis endodontist Charles Steffel, a past president of the Indiana Dental Association and a former trustee of the American Dental Association, served as keynote speaker.
Weaving his address around the theme of professionalism, Steffel told the students that being admitted to dental school does not automatically make one a professional — nor does the completion of the dental degree itself.
“Earning that degree makes you a health care provider; it does not make you a professional,” he said. “You earn recognition as a professional by the way you treat your patients, by the way you conduct your practice, and by the way you live your life.”
Professionals, Steffel emphasized, put their patients’ well-being above all else.
Steffel participated in the presentation of the coats to the students along with Desiree Dimond, president of the Indiana Dental Association, and IU School of Dentistry administrators Pamella Shaw, associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion; and Melanie Peterson, assistant dean for admissions and student affairs and director of the International Dentist Program. Many of the students accepted the option of being cloaked by a family member with a degree in the health professions.
For the 2013-14 academic year, the IU School of Dentistry has enrolled 238 new students and residents who are pursuing degrees and certificates in dentistry, dental hygiene, dental assisting, graduate dentistry and hospital residencies. The school’s total enrollment is 684 students.
The IU School of Dentistry co-sponsors its annual coating ceremony with the Indiana Dental Association, Indiana section of the American College of Dentists, and Theta Theta chapter of Omicron Kappa Upsilon national dental honor society.