pants' homes or offices. Dental schools offer a variety of programs both on-site and in outlying locations arranged by the schools. Every major general dentistry and specialty organization, many producers of dental equipment and other products, and a variety of other organizations sponsor continuing education courses.
In its site visits, the committee found varying levels of dental school involvement in continuing education. School location, traditions, faculty interest, and available market influence school decisions. One school visited by the committee was increasing its continuing education programs to improve relations between alumni and practitioner. Continuing education programs may, like faculty practice plans, provide a way to supplement faculty salaries. Some schools, however, reported that the costs of providing continuing education exceeded the revenues generated from course fees, making it a financial drain on the school when it was expected to generate a surplus.
In principle, dental schools have the advantage of facilities specifically designed for clinical education and ready access to a diverse faculty including educators, researchers, and practitioners. In actuality, they may not successfully mobilize or build upon these advantages to serve and attract practitioners (Chambers, 1992b). In the future, educational and other support might come in unconventional formats such as computer-based information or interactive consulting services. Improved communication links between schools and practitioners also may offer a base for extending research opportunities as discussed in Chapter 5.
Active state support for the area health education centers (AHEC) program facilitates dental school involvement in continuing education. At the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, for example, the AHEC program supports continuing health professions education by deploying the university's faculty throughout the state. The state has designated specific funds for a portion of faculty time, facilities, transportation, and similar costs. Because the AHEC program is academic health center wide, it also links the dental school to other health professions schools at the UNC. In Washington State, which also has a strong AHEC program, the University of Washington dental school is extensively involved in continuing dental education.
Following the path of other health professions, the AADS section on continuing education has endorsed a set of accreditation