Ethics: Lifelong Learning

Molly PereiraFeatured News

By Dr. Carrie Mauterer, CDA 2nd Vice President
From the Fall 2017 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association

On Aug. 24, the Colorado section of the American College of Dentists (ACD) combined its business meeting with the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine’s Student Professionalism and Ethics Association (SPEA) chapter for a regaling evening of food, laughter, and—you guessed it—ethics! The dinner provided a collaborative atmosphere for ACD fellows to connect to our Colorado SPEA dental students.

Dr. Larry Lawton speaks at the joint ACD/SPEA meeting at the CU School of Dental Medicine.

SPEA is a relatively new student organization that is gaining momentum fast both in Colorado and across the nation. Over 52 schools now have active SPEA chapters. SPEA was established to “promote and support students’ lifelong commitment to ethical behavior in order to benefit the patients they serve and to further the dental profession.”

ACD Regent for Section 8 Dr. Lawrence Lawton was able to travel from out-of-state to attend the dinner festivities. He gave an update on the latest ACD activities.

Dr. Ian Paisley attended the dinner event and felt it was a great success. “It was really great to have the student members of SPEA join our ACD meeting so we could all have an informal discussion about some of the ethical challenges that may face these students as they move into dental practice. I believe that by simply being part of the SPEA, these students will make decisions we can all be proud of in the future.”

Dr. Paisley described the discussion on ethics in dentistry that occurred toward the end of the meeting. “A number of the ACD members posed hypothetical situations that a dentist may face, which could present an ethical dilemma and then asked the SPEA members to respond. One particular situation involved how to handle a patient who comes into your office with a treatment plan made by another dentist. The patient then expects you to carry out the other doctor’s plan. It was pointed out that this could even happen within a multi-doctor office. A number of students gave wise responses as to how one might respond to this scenario. A former member of the Colorado Board of Dentistry was in attendance and gave his perspective from a regulatory standpoint.”

The SPEA Leadership Award recipients: Dr. Cliff Litvak (left), SPEA faculty advisor; Dr. Erin Bartlett, class of 2017; Katharine Sumerfield, class of 2020; Sarah Crepps, class of 2019; and Matthew Iritani, class of 2018.

Sarah Crepps (class of 2019) is the current president of the CU School of Dental Medicine SPEA chapter. She gave a presentation to the dinner group about the recent activities and successes that CU’s SPEA has enjoyed. One of the most successful accomplishments is a speaker series that SPEA has organized for the dental students. Each speaker focuses on the importance of ethical practice in dentistry.

Sarah was excited to have a chance to hear about the “real world” experiences that her dentist colleagues described. She stated, “I was so pleased that ACD fellows shared their personal experiences with ethical dilemmas in their practices. It was eye-opening to engage in conversation with them, because these situations actually happen! We are so immersed in our dental school world, it is invaluable to hear stories about practicing outside of the walls of CU and to have meaningful conversations about ethical practice.”

Looking to the future, Sarah is very excited about the alliance forming between the student group and the ACD dentists. “I’m so glad we brought the ACD fellows and the SPEA student members together for an evening—it was a truly enriching experience. We hope to engage the ACD fellows in more SPEA events in the coming academic year as our [relatively new] chapter continues to grow.”