New Pathway to Licensure: Pacific Dugoni Students Submit First Portfolio Examination Applications for Licensure in California

June 5, 2015


DDS Class of 2015 student Dan Beroukhim may not have known he was making history, but he recently became the first dental student in the nation to apply for a license to practice dentistry through a new portfolio exam licensure pathway.

The new pathway to obtaining a dental license was approved by the California legislature in 2010. For many years, committees of faculty members from the state's six dental schools have been working on developing patient parameters and grading criteria for the standardized evaluation system. The history of the new pathway goes back to 2007, when the Dental Board of California initiated the process of re-evaluating the clinical exam and worked with the state's dental schools to explore alternative methods.

University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry is the first school in the state, and in the country, to have students apply through the portfolio exam process. The portfolio exam option currently gives initial licensure only in California.

As of the first week of June 2015, two students from the graduating class have opted to apply through this new process. The school expects up to 12 students to apply in total this year.

After graduation, Beroukhim will be moving back to Southern California where his family lives. Initially, he will work as an associate for multiple dentists and, down the road, he would like to be part of a small group practice with other dentists.

"My journey towards licensure through portfolio has been a great experience and I had the opportunity to work closely with my own faculty towards my dental license," he said. "I believe that licensure by portfolio is a true assessment of a student's competency. Students are required to show competency in more categories than the other pathway towards licensure, WREBs. Licensure by portfolio is more practical for us students as well because we are given more time to complete the portfolio and have the flexibility to bring our patients in at a time when it is convenient for both us and our patients. For those students who are planning on practicing in California for at least the beginning of their careers, I highly recommend this pathway."

"For many years the dental education community in California has been exploring the portfolio exam option and planning for this moment," said Dr. Patrick J. Ferrillo, Jr. dean of Pacific Dugoni. "I'm glad that the hard work of our faculty and our many colleagues and partners in the state have made this option a reality for dental students. It's an exciting advancement in dental education. I hope that the rest of the country will follow California."

Previously, there were only two pathways to initial licensure in California. One pathway is a clinical exam administered by the Western Regional Examining Board (WREB), one of five private examining groups in the United States. This process involves a two-and-a-half-day clinical exam where students demonstrate dental treatment competencies on a patient. A second pathway involves completing a postdoctoral residency program in either Advanced Education in General Dentistry or General Practice Residency.

With the new portfolio exam, students now have the option to take a school-based licensure exam that allows them to build a portfolio of completed clinical experiences and competency exams in six subject areas over the entire course of their final year of dental school. The process consists of sequential candidate evaluation and passing a competency examination performed on patients of record in each of the following areas: 1) Oral Diagnosis and Treatment Planning, 2) Direct Restoration, 3) Indirect Restoration, 4) Removable Prosthodontics, 5) Endodontics and 6) Periodontics. Dental school faculty members evaluate students in these six areas in accordance with grading criteria set forth by the Dental Board of California.

The Portfolio Examination has been developed by dental school faculty of the California dental schools under the guidance of consultants in accordance with psychometric standards.

"This new pathway is an exciting development that provides more options for our graduating students to obtain their licenses," said Dr. Sigmund Abelson '66, assistant dean for clinical transition at Pacific Dugoni, and a key leader involved in organizing the school's efforts to administer the exam. We are confident that our extensive preparation and calibration among our faculty members will serve this process well as the calibration of faculty has been an significant enhancement to their clinical teaching skills."

Will the portfolio exam become part of a national trend? It's too soon to tell, but the eyes of dental school administrators will be on the Golden State's dental schools in coming years.

"California is the only state with the portfolio pathway to licensure approved by the legislature and governor," said Dr. Nader Nadershahi '94, Pacific Dugoni's executive associate dean and associate dean for academic affairs, who represented the school in discussions with the Dental Board of California and California Dental Association. "Other states are currently watching what happens here but there is no movement for change at this point."


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Categories: Professional Education, 2015