Under-fire University of Hong Kong works on dentistry curriculum and internships after standard of clinical training slammed

Under-fire University of Hong Kong works on dentistry curriculum and internships after standard of clinical training slammed

Hong Kong’s only dental school has said it is “continuously enhancing” its curriculum and working with the authorities to develop internship arrangements a day after officials warned that the institution could be removed from the city’s accredited list.

The University of Hong Kong (HKU), the only tertiary institution that offers dental education in the city, said on Wednesday that the one-year internships in the public sector for all its new graduates proposed by the government would provide a “valuable learning experience”.

“The Faculty of Dentistry is continuously enhancing its curriculum and welcomes the recommendations and suggestions of the Report on the Accreditation of the Undergraduate Dental Education by the Dental Council of Hong Kong,” HKU said.

“The Faculty of Dentistry is also working closely with [the council] and proactively implementing the recommendations and suggestions of the report.”

HKU says government proposal for internship scheme for dentistry graduates could boost training and learning experience of graduates. Photo: Handout

The university added that the proposed internship scheme could provide a “more comprehensive training and learning experience” for its Bachelor of Dental Surgery graduates.

The arrangement could also “benefit the public” through increased access to dental services.

The news came after the government on Tuesday revealed findings from the dental watchdog that the faculty had failed to provide a complete record showing the clinical skills training given to students.

The Dental Council also found that there was a need to improve clinical skills training and experience for students.

The government said that the watchdog had added that the faculty’s implementation of clinical training in the curriculum “was significantly inadequate” and that some students did not have experience in particular dental procedures.

The council only recognised the undergraduate dental programme on a “conditional basis” in reviews carried out in 2019 and 2023 and that reviews dating back to 2014 had also been critical of the faculty.

The authorities warned that the dental programme could be removed from the accredited list if no improvements in clinical training were made.

That would mean graduates would need to take a licensing exam before they could practise in the city.

Officials said it was planned to introduce internships for dental graduates through an amendment to the Dentist Registration Ordinance, and the amendment bill was being scrutinised by the Legislative Council.

A professor in the dentistry faculty, who asked not to be named, questioned the basis of the Dental Council’s allegation that the clinical training was inadequate.

“Do the authorities have data [proving the inadequacies]? What does it mean by enough clinical training?” the professor asked.

The insider said the six-year dental programme at HKU was among the longest in the world.

The professor added that very few institutions could offer four years of clinical training to students.

The source added that students had simulation training on models in their second year and had clinical practice on human patients at the Prince Philip Dental Hospital, the faculty’s teaching centre, in the third to final year.

The professor raised doubt over whether the public sector, which has a shortage of dentists, had enough staff to supervise interns.

The insider added that many working dentists also did not have the experience required to supervise interns.

Dr David Lam Tzit-yuen, a lawmaker for the medical and health services, questioned why HKU had not told its dentistry students about the reviews and the conditional recognition it had received from the council.

He added that the university’s stance was “unfair” to pupils.

Lam said he believed the problem had arisen because the council did not receive enough records from HKU to show the clinical experience of its dentistry students.

“From the council’s perspective, the issue could have been handled at the university level,” he said in a television interview on Wednesday. “But the issue was not resolved, so it is too late now.”

He added he had heard of the reviews before but had only learned about the exact timeline, which spanned almost 10 years from 2014, from the government statement on Tuesday.

“After receiving the conditional recognition, it failed to match the council’s expectations again, which is a step closer to being removed from the ordinance’s schedule,” he said. “The removal is imminent.

“Judging from the timeline, we can understand why the government is in such a hurry to implement the internship.”



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