The Dawson Academy has welcomed both dentists and technicians in its courses since its inception in 1979, but its recent merger with Lee Culp's Institute of Oral Art and Design has allowed it to expand its curriculum designed exclusively for technicians. Culp, CDT, the Academy's new director of innovation and technology, and Joan Forrest, president & CEO, talk about what the changes mean for its technician-participants.
LMT: What types of technician courses does the Academy now offer and how much experience does a participant need to have?
Forrest: For years, we've offered one technician-focused course but we now offer a total of four. For the most part, a technician can jump in anywhere but we recommend starting with Occlusion and Function for Lab Technicians because it's the foundation on which all of the other courses are built. All of our faculty are practicing technicians or clinicians, which is important because they're out in the real world, practicing dental technology and dentistry every day. The things we're teaching are realistic; our philosophy is to teach what we do and do what we teach.
Culp: As far as experience, I took Dawson courses 22 years ago when I knew basically nothing. I was sitting in a room with 300 dentists but I understood what Pete [Dr. Peter Dawson, founder] was saying; he made it so understandable. So it's more of a desire to want to learn the philosophy and do the best work possible; the skills can be acquired.
LMT: In keeping with Dawson's long-held commitment to the teamwork approach, you also continue to offer courses in which technicians and dentists work in tandem. What is Dawson's overall philosophy about the dentist-technician relationship?
Forrest: A very important piece of our philosophy is that dentists and technicians are partners; we view the technician as a member of the specialist team. Pete learned this early on in his career because his father owned a laboratory and that was his introduction to dentistry. He started out as a lab apprentice then went to dental school. Pete saw firsthand that when technicians and dentists work together from the very beginning of a case, they have the best outcome and the most patient satisfaction.
LMT: These joint courses also sound like an ideal way for technicians to network with dentists who share a similar philosophy.
Culp: Absolutely. The biggest request I get from our doctors is "Lee, that's very nice work. Where can I find a technician who can do that?" We find that a lot of the Dawson-trained doctors want to work with Dawson-trained laboratories, and vice versa, because it allows them to communicate with one another. Here, you have the opportunity to be trained simultaneously, so you're learning a language that you can both understand and a philosophy you both can appreciate.
Culp: Twenty years ago someone told me, "If you want to do good work, first you have to learn what good work is," and this has been one of the most powerful messages I've heard in my career. Now I'm passing along that message to other technicians who are seeking to get to the next level. Right now, we're only seeing a 9:1 ratio of dentists to technicians and we'd love to see that ratio at 1:1.
The Dawson Academy's new curriculum includes the following courses:
Elements of Design-Natural Anterior
Elements of Design-Natural Posterior
Elements of Design-Smile Design
Occlusion and Function for Lab Technicians
For technicians and dentists:
Achieving Predictable Esthetics Results
Advanced Problem Solving
Functional Occlusion-From TMJ to Smile Design
Technician courses are primarily held in Sarasota, Florida and, in 2009, will also be offered in Chesapeake, Virginia and in the United Kingdom. Courses for technicians and dentists are held in St. Petersburg, Florida and Chesapeake, Virginia. For more information, see The Dawson Academy listing in the LMT Calendar, call 800-952-2178 or visit www.thedawsonacademy.com.