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standards for sponsors and providers (AADS, 1992).8 In 1989, the ADA Board of Trustees adopted a resolution to consider an evaluation and approval mechanism for continuing education that would address concerns about quality and the need for certification of programs and instructors (ADA, 1992c). After considerable work on an initial proposal by the Council on Dental Education, the ADA board appointed a committee to work with representatives from each of the specialties, the American Association of Dental Examiners (AADE), the AADS, and the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) to develop a continuing dental education Provider Recognition Program (PRP). That committee recommended adoption of a PRP that would certify providers or programs, not individual courses, to ensure quality and reputability. The committee also recommended establishment of a PRP steering committee and a review committee on continuing dental education. In early 1993, the Continuing Education Recognition Program was established under the auspices of the ADA in cooperation with 11 other national dental organizations (ADA, CERP, 1993a).
As noted above, little is known about the effectiveness of alternative methods of continuing education or about the specific methods best suited for topics as diverse as patient education and implant materials and techniques. Moreover, the availability of a sound continuing education course does not guarantee that those who enroll will actually participate, learn, and then practice what they learn. Skepticism about the value of participation in continuing education courses as a proxy for competency in practice is common, even among its supporters. This skepticism echoes more general reservations about the impact of education and information as vehicles for influencing practitioner behavior (Eisenberg, 1986; Lomas, 1991; Kibbe et al., 1994). It reinforces the call for a stronger emphasis on evaluation of the effectiveness of different methods and formats; such evaluation should, in turn, provide dental faculty with additional research opportunities.
The Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education accredits most providers of continuing medical education to ensure some degree of consistency. These providers and sponsors include medical schools, specialty societies (national, state, and local), teaching hospitals, community hospitals, pharmaceutical and medical device firms, educational companies, and voluntary health organizations (USDHHS, OIG, 1994, B-l).