Toothless defence of UTech dental programme
Professor Colin Gyles, in an article in yesterday's Gleaner, made some assertions on which I would like to comment and shed some light. Professor Gyles was responding to a comment by Professor Carolyn Cooper that the UTech dental programme "hasn't even applied for accreditation". First and foremost, Professor Cooper's statement is absolutely accurate. The accreditation status of any medical or dental teaching institution in the Caribbean can be verified by simply visiting the CAAM-HP website.
CAAM-HP is the Caribbean accreditation authority for education in medicine and other health professions. Accreditation bodies organise competent teams to evaluate curricula, facilities especially lab and clinic facilities, and importantly, the bona fides of the faculty. Professor Gyles asserts that any criticism of UTech is a criticism of a host of other institutions where "experts received their training". However, unless and until an accreditation authority reviews the curriculum vitae of every member of faculty, how do we know, for example, that someone who claims to be an orthodontist has actually had the required training?
an urgent need
Other important issues such as the calibre of the incoming cohort would be reviewed by any accrediting body so that someone who has the ability to pass only three CSEC subjects is not allowed into a programme just because they have the financial means. Accreditation of an institution is important not only for the public to feel confident that its graduates are well trained, but also that their degrees may be recognised by other institutions as they seek further study elsewhere. UTech's College of Oral Health Sciences needs to start this process.
Continuing, Professor Gyles states that the UTech programme is recognised by the Dental Council of Jamaica, and I am grateful to him for opening the window on this topical issue.
While the Dental Council of Jamaica has no mechanism to determine the competency of a school training dental surgeons, as our anachronistic Dental Act of 1972 did not foresee this eventuality, it would not be a surprise to me that the council "recognised" the UTech dental programme since four of the seven dentists on the outgoing council were on the faculty of the UTech dental programme. Included in this number is the dean of the programme, Dr Irving McKenzie, who, by virtue of his position as chief dental officer in the Ministry of Health, has an ex-officio position on the council and has sat there for more than a decade.
These offices put Dr McKenzie in the enviable position of being, at the same time, the head of a school graduating dentists and the most influential member of the council that will "recognise" the school and then register the same graduates to practise! The minister of health, Dr Fenton Ferguson, to my utter dismay and disappointment, sees nothing wrong with this.
Professor Gyles continues to venture where he knows not when he states that the Commission on Dental Competency Assessment (CDCA) recognises the UTech dental programme. The CDCA is an independent testing authority and a very good one, I might add. The CDCA is not an accrediting agency. The CDCA will not recognise an institution but it will recognise the state board or, in our case, the Dental Council.
The CDCA does not approve dentists to practise in the United States or Canada; however, results from CDCA examinations may be tendered as one part of a dentist's requirements to become licensed by an American State Board. Canada and its provinces are a whole different situation. In most US states, one of the other requirements for licensure would be your DDS or DMD degree from an ACCREDITED university. In the USA, the accrediting authority is the American Dental Association's Council on Dental Accreditation (CODA).
Currently, Dr Ferguson is in the process of constituting a new Dental Council, the term of the old council having expired. It is the job of the council to register dentists, to police the profession, and to suggest changes to regulations that meet current needs. Under the Dental Act, it is the minister's prerogative to decide which organisations are represented on council. The minister seems set to select five members to council, including the chairman, who are likely to report to Dr McKenzie either at UTech or at the Ministry of Health. Together with Dr McKenzie, this constitutes the majority of council. Unfortunately, while others are alarmed at the lack of transparency and the appearance of bias, the minister is not only content with the situation, but has refused to listen to alternative views.
I am surprised that Dr McKenzie would allow Professor Gyles to wade into this quagmire with neither boat nor paddle.