Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2016 05 Stop 1

Dental students don’t need to ‘get a job’

May 23, 2016
Dr. Chris Salierno takes note of a letter in "ADA News" stating that dental students need to "get a job," from a dentist he likens to the grumpy old man with a cane chasing children off his lawn. Dr. Salierno says this is a time for the profession to pull together, not chatise a whole new generation of dentists.
In an April edition of ADA News, Dr. John Sparkman of Amarillo, Texas, sounded like an angry guy shaking his cane at a bunch of kids playing on his lawn. He thinks the solution to the dental student debt problem is for students to get a part-time job while in school because that’s what he did in 1976. Dr. Chris Hasty, who is currently the Chair of the ADA’s New Dentist Committee, wrote a thoughtful and diplomatic response. Fortunately, I don’t have to be so diplomatic here.

There is a lot that is wrong with Dr. Sparkman’s argument. It shows that he isn’t up to speed on the economics of our profession. Student debt isn’t a problem because today’s students are lazy, entitled, or any other negative stereotype he would like to perpetuate. The rising cost of dental school has outpaced inflation by any measure one would like to use. Why? Dr. Eric Solomon wrote a terrific summary of the problem in the January 2015 issue of Dental Economics. Essentially, dental schools have raised their tuitions to compensate for the losses of clinic revenue and state funding. Even if a part-time job were possible with today’s busy curricula, it would barely put a dent in a loan.

It’s okay to be wrong. We all have misinformed opinions that need to be corrected from time to time. But Dr. Sparkman has committed a more critical error here. Publicly and boldly taking a jab at an entire generation of dentists is dangerous. As Dr. Hasty points out in his response, this is a time when our profession needs to come together. Let’s build on each other’s strengths rather than pick apart perceived weaknesses. We need to be collaborative, not dismissive, if we are to overcome the threats to our practices and patient care.



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