A humanistic environment for dental schools: What are dental students experiencing?

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A Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) standard now requires that dental schools commit to establishing a "humanistic culture and learning environment" for all members of the academic environment. The aim of this study was to identify students' perceptions of factors that affect the dental school environment and to test differences in their experiences in terms of gender and year. This picture of the existing environment was meant to serve as a first step toward creating and supporting a more humanistic academic environment. A mixed-methods approach was used for data collection during the 2009-10 and 2010- 11 academic years at one U.S. dental school. Four focus groups were first conducted to explore challenges and conflicts faced by students during their dental education. A written survey informed by the focus group results was then used to obtain quantitative data. The survey response rate was 47 percent (N=188). Faculty inconsistency, cheating, and belittlement/disrespect were experienced by many of the responding dental students during their education, similar to what has been documented in medicine. These students also reported experiencing both constructive communication (90 percent) and destructive communication (up to 32 percent). The female students reported more gender discrimination and sexual harassment than their male peers, and the clinical students reported more experience with belittlement and destructive communication than the preclinical students. The results suggest that greater effort should be directed toward creating a more humanistic environment in dental schools. Based on the issues identified, steps academic institutions can take to improve these environments and student skills are outlined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1629-1635
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of dental education
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • Academic environment
  • Academic integrity
  • Dental education
  • Dental schools
  • Dental students
  • Discrimination
  • Faculty calibration
  • Humanistic environment
  • Sexual harassment


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