Let’s Get Ethical!

Simply put, ethics is defined as moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity. In our profession, it is important to understand that our definition and understanding of ethics goes far beyond what we are taught at school, and goes far beyond what this group, SPEA, is trying to promote. Defining and keeping morals in which to help you better govern yourself and your actions as a dental professional are something that everyone in this great profession must strive to adhere to, not just those involved in the Student Professionalism and Ethics Association.

At the end of April, Ariana Etessami, a dental student at the University of Maryland and Co-Wellness Chair of their ASDA Chapter, reached out to Dr. Theresa Gonzales, Executive Director of the American College of Dentists (ACD). Dr. Gonzales agreed to visit the students at the University of Maryland and spend some time with them while lecturing about ethics. Believe me, when I say that a lecture about ethics is way cooler than it sounds. Dr. Gonzales began by giving a brief history of ethics, sharing some major events in ethics history relevant to health care professionals. Examples included the Tuskegee research trials, a study which lacked proper informed consent and lacked adequate treatment for a group of black men receiving treatment for syphilis (more information can be found here); and the HeLa cancer cell controversy, which also involves the lack of informed consent Henrietta Lacks was faced with when her cells were harvested and then widely used (more information can be found here).

Dr. Gonzales then shared a more recent example of a Californian dentist caught giving unwarranted root canal treatments (click here for the article detailing this incident).

After sharing these examples, Dr. Gonzales began to explain more about how ethics becomes extremely relevant in the clinical setting, and how understanding these principles and responding appropriately in these scenarios is vital to patient care. Although the University of Maryland currently doesn’t have an active SPEA chapter we commend the efforts of Ariana and the University of Maryland’s ASDA chapter for organizing an event where ethics was the main theme. Ethics really is a vital topic to discuss and address while in Dental school, and we as SPEA would love to see more events like this nationwide at dental schools.

Bio on Dr. Theresa Gonzales:

Theresa S. Gonzales, D.M.D., M.S., M.S.S., Colonel, Dental Corps, U.S. Army (retired), currently an At-large Regent, will be assuming the position of Executive Director of the American College of Dentists (ACD) this fall…After nearly 30 years of distinguished service, Dr. Gonzales completed a distinguished career in the United States Army in 2013, retiring with the rank of Colonel. Most recently, she was a nominative selection as the Director of Strategic Communications for the Army Surgeon General. She has commanded formations in Europe and the United States. Prior to her successive command selections, she served as Director of Orofacial Pain Management and as a Staff Oral and Maxillofacial Pathologist at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, HI.

After her retirement from the Army in 2013, Dr. Gonzales assumed the role of Professor, Oral Pathology and Director of Orofacial Pain at MUSC CDM. She held that position until her promotion in 2016 to Associate Dean of Curriculum and Strategic Communication.

She has authored over 50 scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals and was the recipient of the International College of Dentists Award for Excellence in Research. She has received the Order of Military Medical Merit and the Surgeon General’s “A” Designator for clinical excellence. Dr. Gonzales’ research interests have included orofacial pain, oral medicine, forensic odontology, and oral pathology.

Her complete bio can be found by clicking this link.

We would like to commend Ariana and The University of Maryland’s ASDA chapter for hosting such an informative and successful event. Feel free to reach out to us at speadental@nullgmail.com for any questions you may have.