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care. Second, to prepare both their students and their schools for change, dental educators will need to teach and display desirable models of clinical practice. Third, securing the resources essential for educational improvement and, indeed, survival will require that dental schools demonstrate their contributions to their parent universities, academic health centers, and communities through achievements not only in education but also in research, technology transfer, and community and patient service. Fourth, to prepare for the future, the dental community—educators, practitioners, regulators, and policymakers—will benefit from continued testing of alternative models of education, practice, and performance assessment for both dentists and allied dental professionals.
In developing specific recommendations, the committee attempted to be both principled and pragmatic. That is, it tried to be neither so idealistic that its recommendations would be of little use to real-world decisionmakers nor so fixated on the practical difficulties of change that it would provide no direction, motivation, or benchmarks to help decisionmakers move through difficulties toward desired goals. Still, the following recommendations individually or collectively may strike some as weighted toward the idealistic and others as weighted toward the status quo. If, however, a 10- to 20-year horizon is accepted as necessary and reasonable for the more demanding recommendations, then the possible and the ideal draw closer together.
Similarly, as the committee concluded in several instances, the case for some recommendations may not be robust when grounded in a single objective but may be convincing when supported by benefits on multiple fronts. In particular, a number of the education financing recommendations promise only modest economic benefits but would, if implemented, strengthen clinical education and research.
The recommendations reflect the principles that guided the committee, its findings about the current status and future prospects of dental schools and its broad judgments about directions for dental education. These judgments attempt to balance idealism, realism, and prudence. They are not, however, a blueprint for the future. Such a blueprint would have required confident predictions about the pace and direction of key scientific, economic, and social changes, and the committee either found current knowledge insufficient to warrant such confidence or disagreed about what the predictions should be. In addition, the committee did not reach consensus on some policy matters. Finally, the committee believes that no single blueprint is appropriate for all dental schools or all policymaking organizations.