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Preparing the Dental School Faculty of the Future

September 20, 2016
Photo of Margaret Rush Dreker and Roberta Bronson Fitzpatrick

Margaret Rush Dreker (l) and Roberta Bronson Fitzpatrick

Photo of Sarah Jewell

Sarah Jewell

At the George F. Smith Library of the Health Sciences, good librarianship means stepping away from the reference desk and into the classroom.

Health sciences librarians Roberta Bronson Fitzpatrick, Margaret Rush Dreker, and Sarah Jewell serve in the teaching faculty for the From Practice to Preceptor (FP2P) program, a grant-funded initiative of the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine designed to address a nationwide scarcity of dental school faculty. FP2P offers cohorts of 10 participants two years of online and hands-on training in evidence-based dentistry that emphasizes working with multicultural, vulnerable, and underserved populations. At the program’s conclusion, participants have the skills they need to practice and research in an academic environment--and to pass these skills on to the next generation of dentists.

“There seems to be a real need for a program like FP2P in disciplines where faculty must wear a variety of ‘hats’--clinician, educator, researcher, administrator,” said Fitzpatrick. “Information plays a role in all of these components, and the library can train future faculty to become facile with resources and comfortable in critically appraising the published literature.”

In the first year of the program’s curriculum, librarians teach regularly scheduled lectures to help develop the participants’ research and teaching skills. They cover different aspects of evidence-based practice, like using the evidence pyramid to evaluate studies and using the PICO (Population-Intervention-Comparison-Outcome) formula to break a question into its searchable components.

The training includes techniques for searching clinical databases like PubMed and how to use tools such as Endnote to manage citations for a manuscript. Librarians also discuss different teaching methods and presentation styles so that the participants can learn to communicate their knowledge to others effectively.

“Being able to help the dentists find their way into the field of teaching and develop their own style is a great experience,” said Dreker.

For Jewell, the experience offers librarians valuable insights into the communities they support. “We get to learn about the research needs of actual practitioners and establish relationships with future faculty,” she noted.

FP2P has been a success so far, with two members of the first cohort successfully joining the dental school’s faculty and several more taking other roles within the school.

But perhaps the most important takeaway from Fitzpatrick’s perspective is that participating in the program helped highlight the library’s value as an academic partner.

“We were part of collaborative efforts at education, research, and even clinical skills within the school. In short, we were a functioning member of the department,” she explained. “And all without having to perform any root canals!”