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2013 student ethics video contest winner explores greed in dentistry


Winning Smiles: A team of five University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Dentistry students earned the grand prize in the 2013 Dental Students Ethics Video Contest. They are, from left to right, Alana Reifer, Christopher Thorburn, Gregory Luk, Forrest Arguelles and Francisco Nieves.
The choice was to write an essay or make a video. Five University of Texas dental students opted for the video, a wise move that yielded double rewards. Not only did they win the 2013 Dental Students Ethics Video Contest grand prize, but they also earned school credit.

The 2013 grand prize winner is "Implanting Greed" by Forrest Arguelles, Gregory Luk, Francisco Nieves, Alana Reifer and Christopher Thorburn—students at University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Dentistry. The five students will share a $2,000 cash award. Not a bad payoff for a project that started as a class assignment.

"Dr. Boyd Shepherd, our ethics professor, is a dentist who got his law degree, and now he teaches ethics at our school part time," explained Mr. Nieves. "For extra credit, we could have written an essay on the ADA Code of Ethics or we could do a video. He said, 'Here are the parameters that I would like, and if you'd like you could send it to the ADA for this competition.' We thought, you know what, it's going to be fun. If we're going to do it, then let's just go all out for a submission. We got together and just ran with it."

The goal of the annual contest is to create greater awareness of the ethical dilemmas that dental students and professionals encounter and provide a forum for dental students to illustrate how those dilemmas should be addressed using the ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct.

"Implanting Greed" involves scenarios that highlight the ADA Code sections on Veracity and Autonomy.

"Basically it has to do with an ethical dilemma that we learned about in our ethics class and that we hear about from recent graduates who go into corporate dental offices—kind of the new hot topic today—on how they're encouraged to change their diagnosis for profit. A filling isn't as profitable as a crown. How is the patient really going to know the difference? You can abuse their trust in order to get what you want. So that's our story."

Mr. Nieves plays the dentist facing the ethical challenge. "I'm seeing a patient and I'm about to give him a filling," he said. "Once the patient mentions insurance, my manager hears and he grabs me and tells me, 'Well, if he has insurance, you might as well just give him the crown.' So that's the ethical dilemma, and I'm trying to debate inside my head."

The team even composed its own music for the video. "We started writing lyrics for a song, kind of made a little theme of what we were going to do," Mr. Nieves said. "Once we started writing lyrics, we made our music. We did all the recording on a computer. We were in a bedroom with a laptop and just sang out our song over and over again. I'm actually rapping in the video."

Connie Feng, a student at University of North Carolina School of Dentistry, won the honorable mention award for her video entry "Gray Areas." Ms. Feng will receive a $1,000 cash prize. "Gray Areas," illustrates Section 5.A.-Representation of Care.

The videos were screened in a continuous loop during Welcome Center hours at the Annual Session in New Orleans. They can be viewed online.

"I had never made a movie," Mr. Nieves said. "I don't think any of us had made a movie before. It was pretty interesting learning experience. We learned the more raw footage you have the more you can cut. We filmed quite a bit and we were able to do a lot of cutting to fit the timeline for the ADA. It was a lot of fun."