Dr. Walter Siqueira (DDS, PhD), dean of the College of Dentistry, with simulators in the college’s new Mixed Reality Patient Simulation Learning Space. (Photo: Duane Krip)
Dr. Walter Siqueira (DDS, PhD), dean of the College of Dentistry, with simulators in the college’s new Mixed Reality Patient Simulation Learning Space. (Photo: Duane Krip)

Embracing the future: Establishing a premier dental training hub at USask

In an era where technological advancements are reshaping every facet of our lives, the field of dentistry is no exception.

By Duane Krip

Embracing this tide of progress, the University of Saskatchewan’s (USask) College of Dentistry has embarked on a groundbreaking journey towards modernization and innovation, marking a significant leap towards becoming the beacon of dental education that Canada—and the world—needs.

A leap towards modernization

The cornerstone of this ambitious endeavour lies in a comprehensive project encompassing major renovations, acquisition of cutting-edge equipment, and an extensive expansion of programs.

“This significant step forward will position us as the premier dental college in Canada, boasting state-of-the-art facilities that not only enhance the learning experience of our students but also ensure our patients receive the best dental care possible,” said Dr. Walter Siqueira (DDS, PhD), the dean of the College of Dentistry.

Central to this commitment to excellence is the adoption of augmented reality simulators, a pioneering initiative in the country. These simulators provide students with immersive, near-reality training across various dental procedures, from operative dentistry to implantology. With the acquisition of 10 haptic dental simulators, the college is paving the way for a new era of hands-on, technology-driven education.

Moreover, the college is set to expand its arsenal of equipment for pre-clinic and clinic areas, further cementing its dedication to staying at the forefront of dental education.

Innovation through renovation

Parallel to the technological advancements is an ambitious renovation project aimed at revitalizing the college’s clinic and pre-clinic spaces. With a budget of $22 million, this historic renovation seeks to transform the facilities into a patient-centered environment, fostering optimal care delivery.

A significant aspect of this renovation is the relocation of simulation labs from the Health Sciences Building to the clinic building, consolidating learning resources and creating a centralized hub for students’ educational needs. Scheduled to commence this summer, the renovation underscores the college’s commitment to innovation and excellence.

Vision for a dental team education hub

Since taking the helm of the college as dean in the fall of 2022, Siqueira has been the driving force behind the project.

“My vision for our college extends beyond infrastructure to fostering a unique educational environment that supports research and teaching while embracing all members of the dental team,” said Siqueira, who also holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and is a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (FCAHS). “We pride ourselves on being the only college in North America offering a comprehensive suite of programs including Dental Assisting, Dental Therapy, Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD), DMD/MBA, and, starting in September 2024, a pioneering Dental Hygiene program.”

The college is poised to redefine dental education in North America. The recent launch of Canada’s only BSc in Dental Therapy program, taught across four campus locations within the province, reflects the college’s commitment to accessibility and inclusivity for Indigenous and rural students. In addition to the main campus in Saskatoon, students can access the Dental Therapy program at off-campus locations in La Ronge, Prince Albert and Regina.

Similarly, the introduction of the DMD/MBA program, a first among Canadian dental schools, addresses the evolving needs of dentistry professionals in navigating the business side of dentistry.

Now, with plans to launch a BSc in Dental Hygiene program in 2024, the college is set to further expand its offerings. Distinguished by its innovative scheduling and rigorous curriculum, the program aims to prepare graduates for the National Dental Hygiene Board Examinations while accommodating working students and expanding patient care services.

This new program is distinguished not only by its rigorous curriculum but also by its innovative scheduling. Classes and clinics will be held from 5 pm to 10 pm, accommodating students who wish to continue working during the day or accommodate other daytime obligations while advancing their education. Additionally, these alternative program hours will expand their patient care services by providing options for individuals unable to commit to attending the clinic during regular daytime hours.

The program has garnered support from the College of Dental Surgeons of Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Dental Hygienists’ Association, and the Saskatchewan Dental Assistants’ Association, highlighting its potential to significantly impact oral health care in the province.

A future built on collaboration and innovation

As the college charts its course towards excellence, collaboration and innovation remain at the forefront of its philosophy. There is a strong sense of pride with the accomplishments made so far and an excitement for the future.

 “As we move forward, our college is dedicated to training the next generation of oral health professionals, including dentists, dental hygienists, dental therapist and dental assistants,” Siqueira said.

He emphasizes the importance of “four-handed” dentistry and interprofessional education, stating “This approach ensures our graduates are not only highly skilled clinicians, but also team players who understand the value of collaborative patient care.”

With a bright future ahead, USask’s College of Dentistry is poised to lead the way in dental education, setting a precedent for excellence and innovation, as the next generation of oral health professionals emerges from its halls.

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