By Kristen Zapata
The School of Dentistry celebrated its Class of 2021 as 100% of all dental and dental hygiene seniors passed the Western Regional Examining Board (WREB) this April.
Traditionally, the WREB, a high-stakes licensure exam, requires the students to demonstrate clinical competency with live patients. However, at the onset of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, Texas dental schools advocated for simulated exams. As schools prioritized the safety of their students and patients, they encouraged the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners to accept a manikin-based licensure exam to ensure students would be able to graduate as expected. The request was approved.
“With the change from a live patient to a manikin, I wasn’t sure of how the process would differ,” said Crystal Diaz, a 2021 graduate of the dental hygiene program. “The school and faculty handled everything well. I felt well prepared for the WREB and National Board exams. I am glad to call myself a UT Health San Antonio alumna and can’t wait to begin practicing in the San Antonio area.”
Diaz’s class is the second to take the WREB with manikins instead of live patients; however, Jo Ann Jordan, professor and director of the dental hygiene program, is quick to note that a simulated exam doesn’t make it any easier to pass.
A portion of the exam for her students included the removal of simulated calculus. “It could have gone wrong with just a bit of heavy pressure on the ivorine teeth,” she said. “Luckily, our students knew exactly how to feel for the fake calculus and remove it.”
The 2021 graduates spent the entirety of their senior year in a hybrid learning environment. Didactic coursework was presented virtually, scheduled laboratory time was implemented, clinical capacity slowly and safely increased, and a once-in-a-lifetime snowstorm struck the entire state causing the students to lose a week of clinical time.
In an email announcement to the dental school community, Dean Peter M. Loomer, BSc, DDS, PhD, MRCD(C), FACD, commented on the students’ success in the face of such hurdles during the final year of their programs.
“I am thrilled to congratulate the Class of 2021 for not only overcoming the barriers brought on them by the pandemic, but for excelling despite them,” he said.
The School of Dentistry’s Class of 2021 graduated on May 22 in a historical, all-school commencement ceremony at the Alamodome.