Attracting and retaining strong faculty members in dental schools have long been challenges in the United States. Faced with an emerging crisis in the availability and quality of dental educators, many researchers have focused on analyzing data and trends related to this subject. Even though there are substantial studies that provide a picture of why domestic dentists choose to become dental educators, there are no dedicated studies investigating why foreign-educated dentists want to become dental educators. This distinct area is of particular importance as we witness increasing diversity of patients and an increased need for a more diverse health care workforce.
The purpose of this study was to analyze the reasons why foreign-educated dentists became dental educators in United States and furthermore, at University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco, California.
The research data was collected by means of surveys and in-depth interviews of foreign-trained faculty and IDS graduates on staff at Pacific.
The data analysis was performed using descriptive statistics for the survey and a process of thematic analysis for interviews.
The surveys' analysis yielded the following six factors that most positively influenced foreign-educated dentists in deciding to embrace a career as an academic educator: (1) Intellectual challenges and stimulation; (2) Opportunity to always be on the cutting edge; (3) Interest in science, new discovery, exploration; (4) Opportunity for regular interaction with other faculty dentists; (5) Desire to be a teacher. (6) Collegial environment of the university.
There were two most negative factors identified, as follows: (1) Income differential compared to private practice; (2) Pressure to generate income for the university.
Corroborated by analysis of the interviews, the following themes emerged: (1) Drive for research; (2) Desire to be on cutting edge. (3) Desire to share knowledge through teaching; (4) Social and personal factors and perceptions with emphasis on mentors' influence; (5) Negative influence of salary difference with respect to private practitioners.
The findings of this study were similar to the available studies on foreign-trained dentists and to most of the studies already done on domestically trained dentists. The major factors found were comparable with the up-to-date literature. The elevated research drive, the intellectual challenges, the work environment, the desire to teach, and the mentors' influence were among those which mirrored almost perfectly the other studies. Some fine differences were found for foreign-trained dentists, such as a lighter financial burden caused by smaller student debt and the irrelevance of military practice experience.
The study provides a number of suggestions for enhancing the recruiting and retaining process for dental academia: (1) Support and enhance the research capacity of dental schools; (2) Create structures to develop mentors; (3) Invest to build prestige; (4) Find creative ways to offset lower salaries; (5) Foster a pleasant academic working environment; (6) Use international activities to recruit international dentists.
The study revealed factors that have been influential in participants' decisions to choose an academic career, in general and at Pacific. It is hoped that this study will be a useful reference in the increasingly difficult endeavor of adding and retaining world-class dental educators.