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11 October 2006

New Dentistry Course "Heicudent": Hands-On Training and Better Communication with Patients

As of the winter semester 2006/2007 instruction for dentistry students in line with the new German regulations for the practice of medicine

What do the dentists of the future need to know and what skills do they require? As early as the winter semester 2006/2007, dentistry courses at the University of Heidelberg will already encompass everything that, from 2009 at the earliest, the new German regulations for the practice of medicine will require all the 29 German medical Faculties providing dentistry courses to pass on to their students. The new courses are designed to meet the increasing demands made on today's dentists, not least by the growing numbers of elderly patients. In addition, they provide more link-ups between the various different subject areas and gear dental technology training to clinical requirements.

But that's not all. Like their medical colleagues on the Heicumed course, budding dentists studying in Heidelberg will be learning to understand their patients better and to communicate with them accordingly. "Pretend" patients played by actors confront the students with typical complaints and with the kinds of situation commonly encountered in practice. These mock encounters are recorded and subsequently discussed in the group.

At present the Heidelberg Dentistry Hospital trains some 400 students altogether (81 per year). Study places in Heidelberg are in high demand. There were 988 applicants for admission to the courses in the winter semester 2006/2007. The Faculty itself was able to select 60 percent of the 81 successful candidates.

Heicudent for dentists follows Heicumed for medical students

"The new Heicudent course is modelled on the Heicumed medical training introduced back in October 2001," says Professor Dr. Peter Rammelsberg, study dean for dentistry at the Faculty of Medicine in Heidelberg. "But it will not be forfeiting any of the existing assets of our hands-on dentist training." Heicudent contains many features that have proved their worth in the Heicumed courses (Heicumed is short for "Heidelberg Curriculum Medicinale"). Since the winter semester 2003/2004, theoretical subjects like anatomy, biochemistry and physiology have been taught in parallel in the pre-clinical phase, with a focus on organ-related teaching and initial clinical connections. In the first five semesters of the pre-clinical phase the students get to practise actual treatment situations on phantoms and dummies.

"Pre-clinical education is now linked up more strongly than before to medical training," says Professor Rammelsberg. This approach elucidates and encourages the perception of connections between the various subject areas and also facilitates the joint study of dentistry and medicine.

"Train the trainer": education for dentistry instructors

Like Heicumed, Heicudent attaches major importance to modern teaching methods and the "train the trainer" principle. Small groups of students learn to deal with problems and to draw upon modern media like the internet for the purpose. "For years now, the Heidelberg teaching staff have been taking part in training courses to improve their didactic skills," says dentistry teaching coordinator Joachim Beck.

But the teaching methods are not the only things to have changed. In many ways the subject matter dealt with in clinical training is also new. "In the past the individual sectors taught their own treatment forms and techniques more or less in isolation," Professor Rammelsberg explains. "Today the content of the courses is much more dovetailed and practical training is largely organised in integrated courses." In addition, dental technology courses have changed to a simulation-based format training the treatment of patients with the help of phantoms and dummies. This side of dentistry has been geared to practical clinical requirements and modernised from the bottom up: today many denture types can only be fashioned with the aid of the computer and with machine assistance. New subjects like dentistry for the elderly and preventive dentistry now play a more prominent role in the courses.

Joachim Beck
Dentistry Teaching Coordinator
Dentist at the Polyclinic for Dental Prosthetics
Oral, Dental and Maxillary Hospital
Heidelberg University Hospital
phone: 06221/566076
e-mail: joachim.beck@med.uni-heidelberg.de

Journalists should address their inquiries to:
Dr. Annette Tuffs
Press and Public Relations Officer
Heidelberg University Hospital
Medical Faculty of the University of Heidelberg
Im Neuenheimer Feld 672
phone: 06221/564536
fax: 06221/564544
mobile: 0170/5724725
e-mail : Annette_Tuffs@med.uni-heidelberg.de

Dr. Michael Schwarz
blic Information Officer
University of Heidelberg

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