Dental School Unveils New CONNcept in Clinical Education

Dr. Monty MacNeil, dean, UConn School of Dental Medicine

Dr. R. Lamont MacNeil, dean, UConn School of Dental Medicine

We’ve just launched a new dental practice in West Hartford that we believe could revolutionize clinical dental education.

The freshly remodeled dental operatory suite at UConn Health Partners, 65 Kane St., is home to the Connecticut Comprehensive Education and Practice Team, or CONNcept. It’s a clinical education and care model in which our dental students, residents, and faculty run a contemporary group practice with the feel and pace of a private practice.

This is an idea that has been in the works for almost four years: a satellite facility of our clinical operations—not a faculty practice, not a community clinic, but a service to the general community by way of extension of our clinics here.

Students, residents and faculty are taking a team approach to treating patients. Here we are using a practice mode that merges all three groups into a training phenomenon. This is a change from the traditional model, in which the students, residents and faculty operate as separate, distinct groups.

Dr. Steven Lepowsky, associate dean for education and patient care, has been instrumental in bringing CONNcept to fruition. As he describes it, “This model treats the same patient groups, but as a team. The patient moves seamlessly through. That facilitates learning. We hope to demonstrate that this is a more valid and richer educational model, because they’ll learn, they’ll learn better, and they’ll do more.”

CONNcept has a primary care focus, which in dentistry means general or family dentistry and pediatric dentistry. The CONNcept team includes a hygienist and full dental assistant staff support. Our specialist faculty is also involved participating as consultants to the team and providing clinical expertise as needed.

Another goal of this approach is financial viability. If our pilot can show that, then the CONNcept concept would take off in a big way. And we expect that it will. It is set up to be more productive than the traditional model, and have a patient mix that will make it sustainable. Providing care to our community’s underserved is part of the mission, but it’s not exclusive to that population.

Dr. Naseema Maiary, our CONNcept practice leader, explains, “We expect a significantly greater volume of patient activity. A fourth-year in the student clinic traditionally sees two patients in a day. In private practice, it’s more like eight to 15 patients in a day. This is almost like a mini residency, with more training, in a more mainstream process—so a faster pickup there—and it will help students transition to the mainstream. This helps us fulfill our patient care mission and expands our patient care capacity.”

The students and residents see this as an opportunity. Out of 42 fourth-year students, 36 applied. We were able to take five, along with three full-time residents. And nearly all of their patients are following them to Kane Street. CONNcept will represent 90 percent of the students’ clinical training.

If CONNcept proves to be valid like we think it will, the UConn School of Dental Medicine will be a national leader in dental education models.


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