DHDP Launches New Curriculum with a Focus on Social Entrepreneurship and Public Health

It was an exciting start to the academic year for the UBC Faculty of Dentistry, with the Dental Hygiene Degree Program (DHDP) launching a new curriculum.

The curriculum is a culmination of many years of work dating back to 2017, when DHDP leadership began the rigorous process of a program evaluation. The complete degree program evaluation involved integrating a new competency framework (CDHA Canadian Competencies for Baccalaureate Dental Hygiene Programs), developing a new competency map and subsequent gap analysis, working groups and retreats with faculty members and external stakeholders, a Delphi study with faculty members, and collecting feedback from students and alumni, the results of which have been published.

Dr. Zul Kanji

During this evaluation, the program identified a gap when it came to preparing students for business and team management. The newly integrated CDHA competencies require baccalaureate dental hygiene programs to prepare graduates for leadership and entrepreneurial roles in society.

“There’s a growing trend of dental hygienists owning their own businesses, whether that be a traditional stand-alone practice, a mobile service, or delivering a community program,” says Dr. Zul Kanji, former DHDP Director who led the program evaluation. “But we realized we weren’t preparing our students to manage teams or understand business economics. Instead, we were graduating them with the expectation that they would figure out the business aspect on their own.

The new curriculum, which started in September 2023 for the entry-to-practice pathway, exposes students to business and social entrepreneurship education throughout their four years, with the most significant component being a new fourth-year social entrepreneurship and leadership course. Through approximately 30 hours of curriculum, the course provides students with a better understanding of business economics, business ethics, financial literacy, contract law, and team management. The new curriculum is scheduled to commence online for the degree-completion pathway next year.

Salima Alibhai

“The UBC Dental Hygiene Degree Program continues to grow, and this new curriculum is an exciting part of our evolution,” says Salima Alibhai, the new DHDP program Director. “Providing this type of curriculum will benefit students for years to come and is just one example of the amazing work our Faculty is doing.”

UBC now has the first dental hygiene program in the country that provides formal education on social entrepreneurship, and Dr. Kanji says the course is being taught through a social responsibility lens, as the objective of learning these abilities is to give back to the community.

Another important outcome of the program evaluation and curriculum renewal is the introduction of a new dental public health curriculum in first-year. Community Engagement Director Dr. Leeann Donnelly and Director of Dental Public Health Dr. Mario Brondani will lead the curriculum which will be delivered to first-year DHDP and DMD students together in January 2024, with the goal of preparing students to better understand policy and research.

Dr. Leeann Donnelly

“Private dental practice is often what comes to mind for students when they think about the delivery of oral health care,” says Dr. Donnelly. “We hope that early on our students will develop a greater appreciation of how and why delivery models vary.”

The new curriculum introduces students to dental public health competencies, oral health delivery models, social determinants of health, social responsibility, equity, equality, social justice and trauma-informed care. Positioning this curriculum before their clinical learning emphasizes the importance of understanding the diverse ways in which oral health is addressed at both the individual and population levels. This knowledge will form the foundation for students’ understanding of oral health care delivery that they can bring to their senior clinical and community experiences.

“Change is important, and I’m excited these new educational components are being offered to our students,” says Dr. Kanji. “UBC Dentistry offers an innovative, forward-thinking dental hygiene program and this new curriculum will set students up to be leaders in their communities once they graduate, ensuring they’re equipped with the skills to explore many different areas of practice.”