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Bell Leadership Partners with UNC Chapel Hill to Reinvent Modern Dental Education

At first thought, leadership training might not come to mind as an essential component of a dental student’s curriculum. However, what many graduates realize when starting their practice is that dental professionals are expected not only to perform excellent oral care, but to be leaders in their practices, communities, and profession.

A Study in Early Leader Development

We’ve seen through research done on the early implementation of leadership curricula in dental education, to be published in the Journal of Dental Education, that this type of early learning is incredibly beneficial. Students are introduced to various leadership models, topics, and situations involving common leadership challenges in the practice of dentistry as well as their own lives, and then have opportunities to process these exercises in both large and small group discussions.

Student participants have found that the opportunities to self-reflect, develop listening skills, and learn strategies to address and mitigate conflict were extremely valuable as part of their learning and development. One student observed, “I like the self-reflection and interpersonal skills emphasis – those are skills we don’t get a lot of practice/instruction with elsewhere!”

The Gift of Leadership

Dr. Richard Workman is founder of Heartland Dental, the world’s largest dental service organization, and deeply understands and believes in the importance of leadership in a successful dental career. He has made it part of his legacy to ensure that this training is a component of dental school curriculum at the University of North Carolina.

Thanks to a generous $5 million gift from Dr. Richard and Angela Workman (pictured above with Dr. Gerald D. Bell), establishing The Dr. and Mrs. Richard E. Workman Dental Leadership Endowment Fund, the students at the UNC Adams School of Dentistry will now be assured that leadership training will be included in their coursework. Through a partnership with the Adams School, The Bell Leadership Institute contributes their leadership courses to the curriculum, bringing the benefits of elite professional leadership programs to the university stage.

Leading with Excellence in Care

Executive Vice Dean, Ed Swift, DM.D., M.S., of the Adams School, noted that, “We know that honing leadership skills is foundational to positive patient outcomes and that dental teams deliver their best level of care when led by thoughtful and collaborative oral health professionals.” Mastering foundational skills in leadership is a giant step forward for the dental profession in contributing the highest quality service to their communities. Another participant in the early implementation study recognized that,

“As a dentist, we rely on our communication skills to gather information from patients to guide our treatment. This is one area that I could always improve.”

Skills such as self awareness, active listening, and problem solving are actually key to professional excellence. 

WE BUILD LEADERS| The dental profession is not an outlier in their need for leadership skills development. These same trainings benefit students of any industry across the globe. It is our hope that leadership training may someday find its way into the base curriculum for students in every field of study. Thinking about leadership training for your team, organization or community? Schedule a consultation with a Bell team member to learn more.