WLHSDM Standards for Curriculum Completion

This document provides information about the technical skills that are required to provide oral health care services and complete the curriculum at WLHSDM. All prospective and currently-enrolled students, as well as all faculty, should become familiar with these standards, as they are integral to the successful completion of the DMD program.  They also serve as a guide to understanding the various characteristics necessary to become successful clinicians. The WLHSDM will assist students with disabilities and who are otherwise qualified, in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Throughout the time of their enrollment, WLHSDM expects each student to consistently demonstrate knowledge, skills and attitudes that are deemed essential to the practice of dentistry by the faculty at WLHSDM. The curriculum has been designed to ensure that graduates achieve the skill levels of competent clinicians, and the following standards are meant to clarify essential functions to fulfill this goal.  Since the treatment of patients by students (under faculty supervision) is a significant part of the WLHSDM curriculum, patient safety is a primary reason for developing these standards. Therefore, an essential standard is that students are able to provide safe patient treatment within a reasonable period of time.   

The performance standards are described below in several broad categories, to include observation and sensory, communication, motor function, knowledge integration and application, and emotional, behavioral, and professional skills. Matriculation and continued enrollment through graduation is predicated upon these performance standards.

Observation and Sensory

Each student is expected to acquire knowledge, skills and attitudes through observation of demonstrations, presentations, experiences, and clinical environments. These inter-professional experiences may include biomedical sciences, simulation activities, anatomy labs, clinical encounters, and electronic presentation techniques, and may incorporate various health care viewpoints. Knowledge acquisition is expected from the following sources in support of patient care: paper, video, slide, cadaver, and imagery, as well as through auditory, visual, olfactory, tactile and somatic sensations. The expectation of accuracy is not related to close or distance observation. Interpretation of non-verbal communications is expected during all clinical interactions. The student must be able to execute gross and fine motor movements, see fine detail even during patient movement, focus at a variety of distances, and discern variations in color, texture, shape and depth.  They must be able to gather clinical information by palpation or transmittal of sensation through instrumentation. Clear vision resolution is required to accurately read and record patient information and handwriting, examine imaging and small detail, and discern depth, width, and angulation.  The ability to work well and efficiently in a bustling, noisy environment, and to communicate effectively with patients in these situations is expected.


Each student must respectfully and sensitively communicate with faculty, residents, staff, students, other health professionals, patients and their families, community organizations, and leaders.  It is expected that the student demonstrate sufficient communication skills in the English language to obtain and share information from any venue, such as publications, lectures and their supporting materials, written or electronic testing, other patient care members, and patient interviews.  Data and material may require retrieval from patient records, backgrounds, unspoken behaviors and posture.  The student must be able to communicate with the patient and their parents, families, guardians, and community partners to assure compliance with various preventive and treatment recommendations.  Communication includes speech and writing, and must be effective for overall success in this program, as well as for the delivery of oral health care and its accurate documentation.

Motor Function

A student must be able to repetitively position around a patient for prolonged periods of time, whether sitting in a chair or standing.  The student must be required to have functional physical mobility and coordination of both gross and fine motor skills (including facility of vision and touch), in order to safely and efficiently use various types of dental instrumentation. Some examples include, but are not limited to, the following: the use of hand instruments, scalpels, high- or low- speed suction and rotary handpieces; image capturing and restoration-producing equipment; operation of foot pedals and task- operating buttons and pads; and a variety of other electronic devices. A student must also have the ability to perform palpation, percussion, auscultation, basic laboratory tests and other diagnostic procedures.  A student must be able to respond to clinical situations in a timely manner and provide general and emergency dental care. Likewise, a student must be able to perform basic life support, including CPR; assist in movement of patients (including children and those with special needs); physically restrain those patients with who lack motor control; and support co-workers in delivering care.  Students must adhere to universal infection protocols and meet established safety standards applicable to inpatient and outpatient settings and other clinical activities. Collectively, these skills require not only the coordination of gross and fine motor skills, but also require the student to function under stress and develop the endurance for physically taxing workloads.  All tasks must be performed within a reasonable time period, as determined by faculty, to accommodate an atmosphere of patient-centered care.

Knowledge Integration and Application

A student must be able to analyze, integrate, and synthesize information to solve a variety of problems.  Additionally, the student must be able to apply this knowledge to understand structures spatially, including two- and three-dimensional relationships. Problem-solving skills must include the ability to address new difficulties in a timely, sometimes rapid, manner.  

Emotional, Behavioral, and Professional Skills

A student is expected to demonstrate psychological and sociological health, including the attributes of maturity and emotional stability that will enable them to succeed despite strenuous workloads, stressful situations, time limitations, and a variety of environments and venues.  Collectively, this requires the full use of intellectual abilities, good judgment, prompt completion of tasks and skills, and professional communications and relationships with others.  The clinical care of patients can present uncertainties and unusual circumstances, and the student must respond with patience, compassion, integrity, empathy, effective personal and interactive skills, and an overall passion for working in the health care arena.  Patients can present with a variety of moods and behaviors, and the student must be able to assess and manage the patient without provoking them.  The student must also be able to relate to patients and other health care workers with professionalism (which includes honesty, integrity, respect, and acceptance of diversity). A student must always act in the best interests of the patient and society, and this supersedes the student’s self-interests. The student must be a responsible and trustworthy professional at all times. The student must refrain from any actions, including personal appearance and social communications, which may detract from the profession and/or this educational institution. These include actions, attitudes, and communications at all university-sponsored events, educational locations, and off-campus clinical sites. The WLHSDM expects students to maintain the ethical and professionalism standards outlined in the American Dental Association’s Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct, the American College of Dentists Ethics Handbook for Dentists, the Texas State Board of Dentistry, and the Code of Professional Conduct at WLHSDM. 


The WLHSDM has determined that these essential skill functions are not only necessary but fundamental to completing the curriculum and providing oral health care services. Applicants who can perform these functions with or without reasonable accommodations will be considered.  The WLHSDM does not inquire about disability or accommodations prior to admission, and each applicant will be considered based on the published criteria for admission.  Should an applicant disclose a disability during the admissions process, they may be asked for documentation, which should be sent to the Director of Admissions.  With matriculation throughout the program, any student disclosing a disability and requesting accommodation is asked to provide documentation of their disability to determine the appropriate accommodations.  In order to matriculate through the curriculum, a student must be able to perform all these essential functions with or without accommodation.  An inability to perform these essential functions may lead to a withdrawal of an offer of admission or dismissal after enrollment.  Requests for accommodations by matriculated students should be sent to the Academic Success and Accessibility Office (ASAO), Texas Tech University Health Science Center El Paso, 5001 El Paso Drive, MSC 21014, El Paso, Texas 79905.

You may contact the ASAO office at the following email: disabilitysupport.elp@ttuhsc.edu.