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The UM SoD Pathways Program is designed to give students the flexibility to investigate areas of their choosing within oral health care.  These investigations will occur in working offices, clinics, and laboratories whenever possible to provide“real-world” experience.  Students will also become proficient in articulating their experiences through written and oral reports.  In some cases, projects might qualify for publication in peer-reviewed journals or presentation at national conferences. Above all, the Pathways Program expects students to develop professional autonomy by playing the active role in determining the content of this extended learning opportunity.

Pathways Comparison Chart

The program offers three main Pathways: Healthcare Delivery, Leadership, and Research. 
Each Pathway offers a unique set of opportunities and has its own specific requirements.

Health Care Delivery

The Health Care Delivery (HCD) Pathway immerses students in the science of professional development. In contrast to the Research Pathway, which focuses in great depth on one topic, the HCD Pathway expects students to observe and compare a number of specialties, techniques, and practice models within the field. Students develop a personalized plan of investigation that allows them to first become aware of the breadth of their choices in the field, then focus on one area of particular interest. This Pathway culminates in an individual or group project spanning one to three semesters within the area of focus. Projects may involve clinical observation in a local, national, or international location; a literature-based research project; attendance at an off-campus learning opportunity such as a conference or multi-day training session; or (with mentor

The emphases in the HCD Pathway are breadth of experience and patient care. If you are most interested in exploring a large number of topics related to dental practice, you"ll probably enjoy HCD.

HCD-Specific Goals:
  1. Students will develop a stronger sense of professional identity by choosing their preferred role within the field.
  2. Students will develop knowledge and understanding as practitioners within an area of focus
  3. Students will develop their capacity to practice evidenced based dentistry.


  • After a broad investigation of a variety of dental specialties, dental practice models, and other aspects of the field, students will select an area of focus. Investigation opportunities include:
    • Supplemental learning opportunities, such as seminars, presentations, etc.
    • On- and off-campus rotations
    • Optional externships
  • Students will complete a project in their area of focus that lets the student do one or more of the following
    • Gain in depth knowledge in a topic related to direct patient care, access to care, healthcare delivery models or any other area related to dental healthcare delivery
    • Learn the process of hypothesis driven research by participating in a randomly controlled clinical trial or survey research
    • Address a perceived area of critical need, such as improving oral health education in primary schools, providing oral health screenings in an underserved area or organizing a dental outreach program.
    • Learn to incorporate the principles of evidenced based dentistry into daily practice by determining the best practices for treating specific dental conditions.
    • Meet another self-selected learning goal
    • Examples of project types include, but are not limited to, case Reports, group projects focusing on dental care delivery, clinical Product or Materials evaluation, surveying a patient population accessing needs and defining possible care models
  • Working in groups, students will use the Critically Appraised Topic (CAT) process to
    • Select and write effective questions related to a patient centered problem
    • Develop search strategies to identify reliable sources
    • Critically evaluate and rank the available evidence
    • Write recommendations to address the clinical question


The Leadership Pathway empowers dentistry students to imagine and promote cultural changes in dentistry. Designed for students who aspire to lead and innovate, this Pathway encourages students to develop their skills in strategic thinking, communication, problem solving, and interdisciplinary teamwork. Specific opportunities include participating in externships, organizing a professional event, and a student-directed project averaging one to two years in duration. Students graduate strategically positioned to enhance oral health in local and global

The emphasis in the Leadership Pathway is systemic change. If you are looking to affect change on a regional, national, or international scale, Leadership is a great place to start.

Leadership-Specific Goals

Goal: To empower dental practitioners to imagine and promote cultural changes in the realm of dentistry using the competencies of Leadership, Continuous learning, Problem solving, Strategic thinking, and Communication.


  • Students will complete a project that aims to affect change within the field (Leadership, continuous learning, problem solving, strategic thinking, communication). Examples include:
    • Access to care for special patients within the city of Ann Arbor
    • A bill before the House which will affect the private practice of dentistry (e.g. Fluoridation, or mercury in dental wastewater, or stricter OSHA requirements for air quality, or laws affecting small businesses).
    • A novel intervention directed at rural youths abusing methamphetamine and raising awareness of the oral manifestations of this problem.
    • Team learning in dental education utilizing an audience response system.
    • Designing a community oriented primary care curriculum for dental medicine.
    • Improving palliative care education locally through the addition of hospice teaching sessions.
    • Determining how well we teach business topics in dental school and a plan for action.
    • Developing a tool for peer evaluation and implementing it.
    • A review of the effectiveness of computerized feedback in dental education.
  • Students will take responsibility for producing an event for the good of the oral health care community. Examples might include (Leadership, Communication)
    • Bringing a speaker to campus
    • Organize school wide event (e.g. kick off, fundraising event for local organization)
  • Students will have the option to complete externships that aim to increase skills or knowledge in the area of focus. Examples include:
    • Shadow a leader during practice, advocacy, or other leadership activity
    • Attend a professional conference in the area of focus
    • Engage in extended discussion with an invited speaker (beyond simply attending a talk)
    • Serving on a committee related to the area of focus


The Research Pathway gives students the opportunity to participate in a long-term, in-depth oral health care research program in an active research laboratory. Students select a mentor and a project based on their area of interest. Projects vary in duration from one to three years and culminate in a professional presentation, such as a poster or manuscript. Students also have the opportunity to become familiar with the

The emphasis in the Research Pathway is, not surprisingly, laboratory and clinical research. This pathway has the least time to explore options, but offers the best opportunity to delve into one topic in depth over an extended period.

Research-Specific Goals

Students will understand the roles and responsibilities of members of a successful research team and will conduct laboratory and/or clinical research within a university research setting.


  • Through hands-on experience in an active research program in a lab or clinic, students will develop and lead a mentored dentistry research project, including the following aspects:
    • Developing a research project proposal and budget
    • Conducting a variety of research protocols and methods
    • Analyzing data
    • Presenting research findings at a regional or national meeting or for publication
    • Participation in and presentation at literature review seminars
    • Completing certification for regulatory and compliance standards, such as IRB, UCUCA, OSEH, PEERRS, etc.
  • Students will conduct a professional-level journal club, including
    • Searching the literature
    • Selecting relevant and reliable articles
    • Presenting those to a group of peers and effectively facilitating discussion around the readings