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Ongoing Leadership Training for UNC Dental Hygiene Students Assured as Part of New Curriculum

Thanks to a substantial donation, students in the University of North Carolina Adams School of Dentistry and Dental Hygiene Programs will continue to benefit from career preparation courses.

The University of North Carolina (UNC) Adams School of Dentistry recently received a gift of $5 million from alumnus Richard E. Workman, DDS, and his wife Angela. The money is being used to establish the Dr. and Mrs. Richard E. Workman Dental Leadership Endowment Fund, which will offer innovative leadership courses, including those from the Bell Leadership Institute, headed by Gerald Bell, PhD, an adjunct professor at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.1


The funds, which will benefit students in the Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), post-DDS, and Dental Hygiene Programs, will ensure that leadership courses become a permanent facet of the school’s Advocate-Clinician-Thinker (ACT) curriculum. Launched in 2021, the ACT approach aims to enhance modern dental education and training by equipping new practitioners with the tools they’ll need to meet ever-evolving challenges as they encounter emerging technologies, health care models, and shifting disease demographics.1

Supplementing traditional coursework, the program offers training in leadership, person-centered care, effective decision making, practice management, and behavioral sciences. “While they are in dental school, students obviously should focus on obtaining the technical and clinical skills needed to enter the profession. But over the course of their careers, the advancement of their leadership skills will be the most important variable on their influence within their practice, family, and community,” Workman explains.1


ACT comprises four phases. The 6-week Basecamp phase is described as setting expectations for professional engagement, preparing students for success, and contextualizing knowledge on biomedical and social sciences for clinical practice.

During the first 2 years, the Foundations of Practice phase focuses on equipping students with the skills to provide person-centered care and to enable effective clinical decision making. This phase also seeks to build fundamental psychomotor skills and clinical techniques. 

The third phase of ACT, Guided Advanced Clinical Practice, helps students enhance skills in person-centered care in clinical practice, refine the use of effective clinical decision-making, and develop psychomotor skills and clinical techniques. Students rotate through simulations of real-life practice and specialties, ending with 5 weeks working in local communities.

Seminars during the third and fourth years offer hands-on and interactive learning. These include diagnosis and treatment planning, critical thinking and inquiry case-based learning, fourth-year specialty seminars, and leadership training.

In the final phase of the ACT program, Individualization, students explore aspects of dentistry from various angles through experiences such as electives and special shadowing opportunities. Through the program, they can pursue dual-degree programs after their second year, combining their focus on dentistry with other concentrations such as business and public health.2


  1. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Reinventing modern dental education. 
  2. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Adams School of Dentistry. About the ACT curriculum. 
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