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SPEA panel presents ethical toolbox

Posted by Cheryl Bell on December 13, 2019 in News
The 2019 SPEA panel.

It’s a real-life situation that many oral health care professionals will encounter. A patient is sitting in your dental chair, asking for a second opinion. You want to be respectful of the other dentist’s work, but you would have treated the case differently. What do you do?

That was just one of the ethical dilemmas discussed at the Student Professionalism and Ethics Association (SPEA) panel on November 21, 2019. Over 50 –the majority from DDS3 – students came out to hear panelists Drs Tom Steeves, Terry Worthen, Fran Tompkins, and Sarah Fakhraldeen offer insights into ethical dilemmas that dentists regularly face, ranging from staffing and financial matters to patient treatment.

Paige Conrad, the current senior SPEA representative (Gavin Raddall is the junior representative), explains the importance of the panel at this stage of their studies. Dentistry students take an ethics course in the first year of their studies, she says. The course introduces the topic of ethics in an academic way, but it does not feel immediately relevant to the students because they do not have patients.

“In third year,” says Paige, “we have patients and we really want to learn how to deal with some of the situations we are encountering. The panelists presented situations they have encountered and explained how they dealt with them. I felt that it gave us a toolbox of ideas to have at our disposal if we encounter similar situations in the future, even if we choose to deal with those situations in a different way.”

A SPEA chapter was established in the Faculty of Dentistry in 2016. SPEA is widespread in US universities, but only two other Canadian universities, Western and the University of Toronto, have SPEA chapters.

The Dal SPEA chapter recently completed a project to update the Faculty of Dentistry Student Code of Professionalism.