By Douglas Hackleman - February 4, 2019

To encourage the alignment and integration of clinical and academic teaching processes  and improve the learning and engagement of our students, LLUSD Dean Robert Handysides, DDS’93, announced in June 2018 a Dean’s Curriculum Challenge backed by $50,000 in prize money to be shared among the creators of three proposed curriculum contributions voted most impressive by the School’s faculty, students, and staff.

As Mark Estey, DDS’98, assistant dean, Academic Affairs, put it, “Dean Handysides put out the challenge for anyone to look at our curriculum, pick out a piece, and come up with a plan on how to make it better.”

A revitalizing of the LLUSD curriculum has been motivated by several factors that triggered the Dean’s Challenge and its terms:

1. The need to upgrade the way dentistry is taught and the curriculum is delivered to 21st century students.

2. The need to incorporate into dental education, modern technological advances in dental materials, novel techniques, principles, and procedures as well as pedagogical tools, all the while considering large shifts in dental practice choices.

3. The need for a curriculum that recognizes what is required in the new, single-test dental board exam to be administered commencing in 2020.

A Clinical Transformation Committee first assembled in November of 2016 and chaired since January 2018 by Dr. Estey has met for two years preparing for the intricacies of curriculum advances that require a phased implementation.


  • Mark Estey, DDS’98, assistant dean, Academic Affairs


  • John Won, DDS’05, head, Division of General Dentistry
  • Tord Lundgren, DDS’75, PhD, chair, Department of Periodontics
  • Anupama Grandhi, DDS, assistant professor, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Iris Nam, DDS’10, assistant professor, Division of General Dentistry
  • Mike Fitzpatrick, DDS’87, interim program director, International Dentist Program
  • Jessica Kim, DDS’05, director, Hugh Love Center for Research & Education in Technology
  • Lisa Nelsen, project manager, Office of the Dean

Curriculum submissions for the Dean’s Challenge were to be judged on their incorporation of eight rubric categories:

  • Delivery method (lecture or alternative delivery—modern, educationally sound, learning focused edutainment, multi-dimensional, student interactive)
  • Technology infused (webinars, recorded lectures, online videos, Canvas/Livetext, linked to educational sites)
  • IPE/team approach (interprofessional education/group learning—faculty, students, staff)
  • Aligned to LLUSD Model (Techniques and materials used on clinic and developed by team are imbedded.)
  • EBD support (evidence-based dentistry—modern literature, Med Ed portal, etc.)
  • Built in assessment (self-tests with formative progress tracking)
  • Curriculum mapped (mapped and scheduled at the same time to LLUSD’s Intentional Learning and Outcomes (ILO))
  • Multipliers (number of units for courses)

In response to the June Challenge, initially 15 teams or individuals began working on submissions; but as they became aware of each other and the obvious overlap in topics being tackled, competitors joined forces in ways that reduced the number of creative groups to ten.

A quartet of interprofessional faculty members from four different schools—Tammi Thomas, MD, vice dean, School of Medicine; Laura Alipoon, EdD, chair, Radiation Technology, School of Allied Health Professions; Leo Ranzolin, ThD, associate dean, Academic and Student Affairs, School of Religion; Arthur Marshak, EdD, assistant professor, Allied Health Studies, School of Allied Health professions—sat for all ten dental curriculum proposal presentations on November 26 and selected their five favorites without ranking them.

Presentations of the selected quintet were posted online November 28 for the judgment of LLUSD students, faculty, and staff who had until 3pm, December 6, to rank order their three preferred presentations. To ensure that no one voted more than once, the link automatically disabled after one access.

With votes collected from faculty members, students, and staff, the winners were announced at the December 14 Faculty Advance Seminar (hotlinked titles take viewers to the presentation videos):

First place ($25,000) for curriculum innovations focused on Patient Centered Care went to a team of five faculty and staff: Dr. Fitzpatrick; Jessica Kim, DDS’05, director, Hugh Love Center for Research & Education in Technology; Ms. Elvia Sandoval, dental assistant II, Hugh Love Center for Research & Education in Technology; Balsam Jekki, BDS, associate professor, Division of General Dentistry; and Mrs. Nelsen.

Backed by Dr. Mark Estey (with beard) and Dean Robert Handysides (far right), winners of the first-place submission are (L-R) Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick, Dr. Jessica Kim, Ms. Elvia Sandoval, Dr. Balsam Jekki, and Mrs. Lisa Nelsen.

Second place ($15,000), for curricula that foster Wellbeing, was received by a team of two: Anupama Grandhi, BDS, assistant professor, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, and Natalie Hohensee, DDS’08, assistant professor, Division of General Dentistry.

Dr. Mark Estey (left) and Dean Robert Handysides (far right), stand with 2nd place winners Dr. Anupama Grandhi (left) and Dr. Natalie Hohensee.

Third place ($10,000), for eLearning curriculum contributions, went to Dr. Kim; Mrs. Nelsen; Marlise Perry, assistant director, Office of Admissions and Recruitment; Noura Fadel, DDS, assistant professsor, Division of General Dentistry; Holli Riter, DDS'98, associate professor, Division of General Dentistry; and Iris Nam, DDS’10, assistant professor, Division of General Dentistry.

Dr. Mark Estey (left) and Dean Robert Handysides bracket 3rd place winners (L-R) Dr. Jessica Kim, Mrs. Lisa Nelsen, and Dr. Holli Riter. Not shown: Ms. Marlise Perry, Dr. Noura Fadel, and Dr. Iris Nam.

All ten of the competing projects were sufficiently worthy that Dr. Estey says each will be incorporated into the revised LLUSD curriculum. “Many faculty and staff spent a lot of time working on other presentations and even though they did not move on to the final list, we felt it was important for everyone to have an opportunity to see the other presentations.”

Finalists (hotlinked titles take viewers to each of the remaining submissions):

  • Educating the Educators: A Faculty Enhancement Program – Dr. Kim; Eun-Hwi Cho, DDS’93, assistant professor, Dental Education Services; and Mrs. Nelsen – Future thinking mindset of transitioning thought processes and education is dependent not only on educating the students but also on educating the educators.
  • Multidisciplinary Case Presentations – Dr. Fadel, Erin Richards, DDS’10, assistant professor, Division of General Dentistry, Dr. Hohensee; So Ran Kwon, DDS, MS, PhD, MS, program director, Student Research; and Eun-Joo “Priscilla” Choi, DDS’96, assistant professor, Division of General Dentistry – Case-based, multidisciplinary student presentations with IPE rotations and EBD appraisals in decision making process.

Additional submissions (minus one that preferred anonymity)

  • Dental Ethics – Erik Sahl, DDS’06, MSD’11, program director, Advanced Education Program in Periodontics, and Dr. Cho – An all-encompassing review of the ethical principles as they relate to the specialty practice of dentistry as well as a reflection of service learning experiences
  • Radiology – Dwight Rice, DDS’96, professor, Radiology and Imaging Sciences – Proposal revamps the Radiology Curriculum such that first year students will have met the requirements of what a dental assistant must know
  • Root Camp: Endodontics for General Dentists – Tory Silvestrin, DDS, MS, MSD, chair, Department of Endodontics and program director, Advanced Education Program in Endodontics; Jing Guo, BDS, MS, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Endodontics; Rinku Parmar, BDS, assistant professor, Department of Endodontics –Introduction to innovative endodontic techniques and technologies for soon to be general dentists
  • Tooth Morphology – Dr. Hohensee and her father, Todd Cochran, DDS’80, assistant professor, Division of General Dentistry – Condensing the course on Tooth Morphology to a three-week mini course by using interactive software and inter-departmental collaboration

Dean Handysides was immensely pleased with the response to his Curriculum Challenge: “I am very proud of the School of Dentistry team. This experience has brought together people from different centers, departments, roles, and responsibilities in a unifying way that promotes necessary curriculum change and the advantages it will give our students. The Challenge results have been a win for all who participated—not just financially but in scholarly growth, promotion potential, and collegial interactions that have resulted in new friendships. The best part is that throughout Prince Hall, and even around campus, individuals no longer satisfied with the status quo are discussing how to do things better. I anticipate we will initiate another challenge later this year to not only maintain the creative momentum but stimulate even more development and growth.”