January 11, 2019
The first two years of dental school are known to be the most stressful in a student’s academic career. But there are very few studies out there that examine the pressures of dental school and their causes.
Faculty and students in the College of Dental Medicine are studying the issue. They took part in an educational research project that was recently published in the Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. The study also led to changes in the college’s own curriculum to alleviate stress.
The project was led by Yang Kang, D.D.S., Ph.D., assistant clinical professor, with assistance from Stacey Dubois, M.S., M.F.A., assistant director of Academic Affairs and Isaac Stickney, M.Ed., C.G.S., previous assistant director of educational support and student recruitment, and
“My primary interest is educational research,” said Yang. “I want to help students address their challenges in dental school.”
The researchers performed a cross-sectional study during the fall and spring semesters of the 2015-2016 academic year to better understand the relationship between curriculum and stress among first-year and second-year students.
The study revealed that the second-year students felt more stress than the first-year students overall, and second-year students experienced more anxiety in their spring semester. In general, students who lived with their immediate family felt less stress. Students ages twenty-five and over experienced less stress than their younger classmates.
The study resulted in several curriculum changes in UNE’s College of Dental Medicine. Pediatric Dentistry was moved from the summer semester to fall and Endodontics was moved from the fall to the summer. Endodontics also changed from 8 credit hours to 12 credit hours to give students more time each week to acquire knowledge and practice their skills.
Additionally, another eight-credit course for second-year students, which included multiple medical disciplines, was divided into two courses to help students better balance their lives and their intense course load.
Yang says she is committed to researching ways to reduce stress among students.