Central to the unique educational experience offered by Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine is the APEX (Applied Professional Experience) program, which is the first initiative of its kind in a dental school. Through this hands-on approach to dental education, students integrate classroom study with professional experiences in dental offices as dental interns working side-by-side with practicing dentists.

The APEX program provides students an opportunity to experience dentistry in a true dental practice environment. By working alongside a practicing dentist, students have the opportunity to enhance their skills in such areas as communication, preventive dentistry, diagnosis, treatment planning, emergency care, patient management, and comprehensive care. Students learn important concepts in practice management, including the application of business systems in a dental office and working closely with auxiliaries.

APEX Program Goals

  • To structure the APEX experiences so they enhance, integrate, support, and provide relevance to didactic and preclinical course materials.
  • To provide an early understanding of the dental profession and to facilitate the transition from dental school to dental practice.
  • To enhance self-confidence and improve communication skills by working in a professional atmosphere.
  • To provide exposure to patient care before entering the clinic.
  • To provide an opportunity to develop a mentoring relationship with a dental practitioner.

The program exposes students to an aspect of dentistry that cannot be taught in a classroom or clinic. Through role modeling and mentoring, the dental practitioners teach students various approaches to the delivery of care, from the business management of a practice to proper biological, psychological, and dental management of a patient. With this direct application of learning, the student’s education is enhanced and made more relevant.

Scope of Program

Students participate in APEX, an eight-week internship in a private dental office or public health clinic, at the end of their first year. APEX is designed to provide students the opportunity to practice what they have learned in the classroom during their first year and to lay the foundation for more advanced clinical topics they will learn in the second year.

Assignment and Placement of Students

The School will be responsible for selecting students for placement as dental interns in the dental offices. Students will be asked for information on site preference such as geographic location, transportation requirements, and previous dental experience. Whenever possible, these parameters are taken into consideration when making student assignments. Once the assignment has been made, the student is responsible for contacting the APEX dental office and obtaining all necessary information before the first day of the clerkship.

Out-of-State APEX Dental Offices

A limited number of students in each class will have the opportunity to complete their APEX assignments at approved dental offices in their hometowns. Students who are considering returning home after graduation may be interested in developing professional contacts through the out-of-state APEX option.

A dental student wishing to participate at an out-of-state office must submit a written request to the Global & Population Health office. However, request for an out-of-state APEX assignment is not a guarantee that the student will be placed at an out-of-state office.

Selection and approval of APEX dental offices are conducted by the School through the Global & Population Health office. Interested dental offices must submit a completed application and participate in an interview with the APEX director either by phone or through a scheduled office visit.

Student feedback indicates that the mentoring relationship formed by working in a professional environment with APEX dentists enhances students’ confidence, their patient-communication skills, and their ability to comprehend the work presented in class, the Simulation Learning Center, and patient care. Graduates are seeing the benefits of this real-world experience; many placements lead to opportunities for positions after graduation.