Tuesday, January 04, 2011

California's First in the Nation Portfolio Exam for Dentist Licensure Goes Into Effect

With the beginning of 2011, California dental students will have a new option to achieve their dental license.

Dental students in California will soon have a new pathway for obtaining initial licensure. Last month the state became the first in the nation to create a dental school-based portfolio examination process.

A multiyear lobbying effort resulted in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signing Assembly Bill 1524 Sept. 29. Once regulations are adopted, students will have the option of taking a school-based licensure exam that allows them to build a portfolio of completed clinical experiences and competency exams in seven subject areas over the entire course of their final year of dental school.

The trend away from point in time, live patient examinations with the concomitant problems of ethics, patient brokering, supervision, gaming the examination et. al. is long overdue. Dental schools and their faculty are probably the best arbiters as to who practices dentistry, requires remediation or who needs to find another profession.

Now, the American Dental Association needs to work with the states and American Association of Dental Boards to develop an acceptable national licensing system. For over thirty years, I have been licensed to practice only in California without jumping through hoops to obtain licensure in another state. Funny, I can practice in San Francisco tomorrow which is further geographically away from where I live, than Las Vegas, Nevada where I cannot.

A secondary challenge facing the workgroup is whether states will accept one national exam.

“States have the right to accept any examination or methodology for initial licensure that they choose,” said Dr. Kennedy. “However, if we can come up with something objective that allows for independent evaluation and meets state boards’ regulatory obligations to protect the public, we can move toward broader acceptance.” He likened a national exam to licensure by credentials, which was initially met with some resistance but is now accepted in 46 states.

“This will be an evolutionary process,” said Dr. Kennedy. “If it’s something that makes sense, is economically feasible and can be ethically accomplished, the states have no objective reason not to consider its implementation.

“As more states utilize the process,” Dr. Kennedy continued, “there will be less rationale to administer a less comprehensive examination process with all the problems we know to be associated with it.”