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Dental students and faculty members' attitudes towards care for underserved patients and community service: do community-based dental education and voluntary service-learning matter?



Dental students and faculty members' attitudes towards care for underserved patients and community service: do community-based dental education and voluntary service-learning matter?



Journal of Dental Education 78(8): 1127-1138



The objectives of this study were to explore 1) how students across the four years of a dental curriculum differed in attitudes towards underserved patients and community service at the beginning and end of each school year; 2) how these attitudes changed as a function of participating in required vs. voluntary community-based activities; and 3) what attitudes faculty members held about the effects of community service-learning on students. Surveys were distributed to 440 students at one dental school at the beginning and end of the school year. The overall response rate for those surveys was 75 percent, with variations among classes: first year, 94 percent; second year, 92 percent; third year, 69 percent; and fourth year, 43 percent. Survey data were also collected from twenty-two students (out of a possible forty-seven) who participated in voluntary service-learning and from fifty-four faculty members (out of approximately 150). The results showed that, at the beginning of the year, the first-year students' attitudes were more positive than the responses of students in all other cohorts. However, at the end of the year, their attitudes were less positive. Participating in voluntary service-learning improved students' attitudes towards treating underserved patients only in the short run, and experiencing ten weeks of community-based dental education did not improve their attitudes. The faculty respondents' attitudes, however, were quite positive. The decrease in students' positive attitudes towards treating underserved patients and participating in community service should raise questions about why this loss of idealism occurred.

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Accession: 052489082

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PMID: 25086145


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