Student FAQ

How much time will I have to devote to the program?

Simple answer is 250 hours a trimester. On a weekly basis, if a Trimester is 12 weeks long then 250 hours divided by 12 is = about 20-21 hours per week. 

How much of this time is during my working hours (8-5 M-F)?

The Programme is very flexible and can be adapted around your working day. The fixed sessions involve video conferences on Monday evening starting at 1700. Online support is available, if required, on a Wednesday morning. All other activities can be worked around your working week. Do however bear in mind that this is an intensive course and will require a significant amount of time preparing course material and completing patient and other assignments. It is most unlikely that you will not have sufficient time working out of hours alone.

Are there any other fixed elements of the program or can I do the rest of it on my own time (evening, weekends)?

Yes, every week on Monday there will be a video conference meeting from 1700 (Dublin time). In addition they will need to spend 1 full week in Dublin at bootcamp, which is held in December. The other activities (lectures, quizzes, case portfolio preparation, reflective journal and all reading and studying) are on the student’s own time. Online support is also available on a Wednesday morning.

Tell me about a typical week in the program?

There are about nine activities the student must complete. Some each week, although some occur only once each trimester:

(1) The student will have to spend about 2 hours watching a video each week.

(2) Every week the student will have to prepare for and take a 10-15 question quiz for a grade (approximately 30 minutes).

(3) Every week the student must open and view all five of the “video conference cases” that are given to the students. The student writes and submits these five short paragraphs (one for each case). The paragraphs are free form, but should demonstrate that the student has read these cases and should speculate about what is approach they might take if the patient were their patient.

(4) Every other week a student must write-up and submit a set of detailed researched answers for the case they are specifically assigned. They must also prepare a 10 minute maximum oral presentation regarding the answers. All cases have a set of 7-8 questions at the end of the case.

(5) Every week the student must attend the live video conference and present or listen to the 5 cases being reviewed each week.

 (6) Every week the student must then write a carefully researched “reflective” journal entry in the course website. The reflection should be on what they learned about patient disease, its impact on the patient, the nature of the diseases and disorders they saw. The reflective journal entry should also include several PubMed citations on the condition and they must also pose some questions that experience has generated that they would like to know more about.

(7) Each trimester the student must write up and submit to the course website two composite cases. These cases will comprise the student’s 6 case in total portfolio that they will present to the faculty and defend at the end of the program at bootcamp. The cases must be fully de-identified, preferably be a composite case (drawn from 2 or more similar patient) and be presented in a PowerPoint presentation with narration. The presentation must describe the evidence basis of the diagnosis and the treatment approach as well as some information about the aetiology and pathologic mechanism of the disease.

(8) Each trimester the student must take a proctored final examination (on blackboard but also using Zoom). This examination will be 100 multiple choice questions and take about 3 hours.

(9) Finally in December the student must prepare for and attend a Year End Assessment 1 week long course, which we call the bootcamp. The student will take a set of comprehensive examinations, and be taught and tested on their ability to perform specific skill and procedures.

How difficult is the program to complete successfully?

Like all things, you get out of it based on what you put into it. If you can get the certificate but are never challenged to prove that you know and can apply what is being taught, the certificate is much less valuable. The 1-year post-graduate certificate program the faculty at TCD have created is a rigorous program of study. Students must demonstrate that they have achieved competency in a variety of topics, they must be able to successfully demonstrate that they have both the knowledge and skills that a competent orofacial pain practitioner would have. The program requires that the student is a diligent student who completes the required work satisfactorily. We fully expect every student who is judged eligible to enter the program to be able to successfully finish the program.

Is it possible to take an external certification examination after the program and gain either a diplomat or fellowship status in Orofacial Pain?

Graduates of the 1 year certificate program are not eligible for specialist recognition.

If I want to continue my studies after the 1 year certificate program at Trinity College Dublin, what are my options?

For the student who wants to continue their education, it is possible good students to bridge from the 1-year certificate in Orofacial Pain program at Trinity College Dublin to the University of Southern California’s Master in Orofacial Pain and Oral Medicine program. The student can transfer up to 8 units of credit from their studies at TCD and this is enough to enter the program at USC and finish it in two additional years, graduating with a MS degree. The MS degree has 32.5 units course work so a transfer student would still have to take and complete 24.5 units or 12 units a year.

What is the real value of the knowledge and skills I will gain in this program?

You will become be very knowledgeable about the various diseases and dysfunctions that make up the Orofacial Pain, Headache and Temporomandibular disorders. Moreover, a graduate of the 1-year certificate in Orofacial Pain will also have a set of skills that will allow them to successfully diagnose and treat patients with these problems. Your patients will only care that you help them, but you can also point to the fact that you will have a post-graduate certificate from a highly respected University that certifies to your patients the accomplishment and abilities you have gained.

I want to learn about how dentists can treat sleep disorders, will this be covered?

This topic is covered in great depth in the USC Orofacial Pain and Oral Medicine Masters degree in year two of that program. Students interested in this topic might choose to bridge or transfer into the USC Masters degree program after they finish the course. Alternatively students can elect to take a single course without enrolling for the M.S. degree at USC. Some introductory lectures on the topic will be added to the course if requested.

What are the specific skills I will learn in this 1 year Post-Graduate Certificate program?

We have a very through clinical skill manual to use when describing procedures and tests and exemplar consent forms for you to adapt to your private office. Student will learn how to: conduct a very through head and neck examination; map out myofascial trigger points, manipulate a patient with closed and open locking and be introduced to injecting a painful temporomandibular joint.

If I were to apply to the USC Master’s in OFP and Oral Medicine degree program what additional content would be covered that is not covered in the TCD post-graduate certificate OFP program and additional skills would I learn?

For the dedicated student who wants to push on to gain a Masters Degree level education, USC has a combination MS degree program in Orofacial Pain and Oral Medicine. Most of the first year’s content in the MS degree is covered in the 1 year certificate in Orofacial Pain given at Trinity College. A student who applies to USC and is accepted will be able to transfer 8 units of credit and this will cover 80% of the program offered in Year 01 at USC. In year 02 and year 03 at USC students will take courses on Internal Medicine, Neuroscience, Research Methodology, Sleep and Motor disorders, Infectious disease, Practice Management and Oral Mucosal and Osseous pathology, Geriatric Dentistry and Psychology. In addition to these didactic courses students will participate in live video conferences weekly where more cases are discussed, they will have a second bootcamp but this time at USC in the summer and they will begin there thesis project and portfolio project.

Why is the USC program a combined program teaching about Orofacial Pain and Oral Medicine?

The short answers is that an orofacial pain practitioner who knows about a wide variety of oral disease is going to be a far superior clinician than one who knows only about some of the 300 different condition that affect the oral and perioral and facial region.

I am not seeing patients in a private practice so how do I find cases for my portfolio?

Ideally portfolio cases are identified and collected from the student’s clinical practice. Obviously each case must be de-identified fully, and all documents associated with the case must be inspected to make sure there are no protected information in the documents. We also ask our students to identify two cases with a similar problem and make a composite case that cannot be linked back to a single patient. Alternative sources for cases are patients that are seen on an observational practicum. All cases must have signed a consent form (which we will provide) indicating their permission for using some of their clinical story in the students portfolio. The student is responsible for this consent.

How do I arrange for 20 days of observational practicum?

Because we expect our students to be in various locations throughout Europe, the UK and Ireland and maybe even non-European countries, we cannot make the arrangements for the observational practicums at each location where students are located. This means they must individually identify pain-focused practices (e.g. neurology, headache centres, rheumatology, pain centres, cancer pain centres, physical medicine) asked if they could come and observer for a few days (usually ½ day a week for several weeks). If the answer is yes, then the student will contact the program director for the course he or she is taking and they will send a letter to the site explaining the program and getting a written consent for the observation.

What exactly is a “Hybrid” Online post-graduate program, and what is the biggest difference between this and a traditional on-site post-graduate program?

The word hybrid is used when you have a combination of face-to-face interactions and non face-to-face interactions with your students. In the Trinity program face to face interaction occur in the weekly video conferences and at bootcamp. The lectures and discussion board /reflective journal activities are non face-to-face.

What are some of the advantages of working in groups with other online students?

For the younger student who does not have the experience of the older student, there is a great advantage of working in a group. However, even the older student will benefit as no one individual has the collective wisdom of the group. In a group where you can discuss issues in an open manner, such as what seems to work for you and what you struggle. Groups are also a great place to discuss or get help understanding the more complex concepts the faculty are teaching.

I know that all programs at Trinity College Dublin, are vetted before they are offered to a student, can you explain the vetting process to me?

Trinity seeks Garda (Police) vetting for each student. Further information will be given on application

Why has the dental faculty at the Trinity College Dublin partnered with the faculty at the University of Southern California School of Dentistry (USC) to offer this program?

USC has more than a decade of experience in providing on-line education and has successfully run a Masters in Orofacial Pain among other courses. We see the Certificate in Orofacial Pain increasing the profile of the discipline in Europe and also providing an opportunity for busy dental practitioners to improve their clinical knowledge and skills in a flexible and innovative manner. Combining the faculties from USC and Trinity provides a strong course with a critical mass of experienced staff to deliver a high quality course.

Trinity College is the leading Irish University and the Dublin Dental University Hospital is the only centre that provides education for all the dental team through undergraduate and postgraduate education and continuing professional development. It has a long history of providing postgraduate education within Europe and the Middle East. The Certificate in Orofacial Pain will add to the range of courses available for both general and specialist dental practitioners.

The Certificate will also provide an opportunity for dentists to experience one year of postgraduate education in a manner that will allow then to continue practicing. The Certificate has also been matched to the first year of the three year Masters in USC so the opportunity exists for graduates from the Certificate in Trinity to progress to complete the Masters in California.

What is the big difference between taken a series of two-day continuing education courses on TMD and taking a 10 ECTS unit course on TMD in this program?

The big difference is that you learn better when you are challenged. You really learn when you must explain what you think you know to others. You retain better when you are forced to recall on a test. Most CPD type courses do not have group discussions, individual presentations, homework or tests you can fail if not prepared.

I hope to become competent at diagnosing and treating a wide variety of patient with chronic pain problems, is this a realistic goal of the program?

Absolutely it is. 

What would you say are the weakness of studying online versus studying on-site?

In a traditional residency program your co-residents often become your friends for life. While socialisation is possible in the online world and you get to know each other via the weekly video conferences, bootcamp and the discussion groups you form, the time interacting with your co-residents is still going to be far less in an online program. Of course this has to be balanced with the fact that you can keep working in your dental business, earn a living and immediately apply what you are learning against the reduced socialisation time.

I have no idea what a reflective journal is, can you explain this in more detail?

Essentially, we are asking you to write down what you see and what you are learning as you visit and observe in the various pain focused practices you visit for your practicum. The reflective elements are where you assess what you don’t know and what you want to learn about as a result of these experiences. Your job is to describe what you saw and then form and write several questions/ideas or topics that you want to pursue in more detail. The faculty will look at your reflections weekly and give you some guidance in this self-discovery process. They may suggest some additional questions for you to research and write-up in the journal. It will probably take 2-3 hours a week for you to write your journal.

Will I get to know my faculty and be able to ask them questions directly in this program?

Again absolutely, the video conferences are weekly and the main faculty who teach you will be in attendance. They will know you and you will know them via these weekly meetings. In addition the bootcamp is an intense training experience and the faculty will be at your elbow the entire bootcamp.

How much total time does this 1 year certificate program involve?

750 hours at a minimum.

What kind of library resources will I have access when I am a student in this program?

All of the extensive resources a conventional on-site student at Trinity College Dublin has will be available to you.

During the December “bootcamp”, is there any student (low cost) housing available or do I have to find a hotel for the week?

This varies each year but the bootcamp will be out of regular term. The School of Dentistry will try and acquire rooms on site but this cannot be confirmed until nearer the time.

Is there any financial aid available to help me with the cost of the program?

Unfortunately there is not.

Can I start the program at any point during the year or is their only one entry point for a student?

The programme will start on January 2021 and has a fixed start date.

Will I be able to walk across the stage and get my certificate at graduation like all of the other post-graduate certificate students?

Yes, absolutely.

Are online students treated any differently than on-site students?

This would never be our intent and we will be very careful to treat all students with equal respect and provide them with the same opportunities.

What other fees beyond tuition will I be responsible for, and are some of these waived since I will only be on campus 1 week a year?

There are no additional fees except the cost of accommodation for the Bootcamp.

If I have a medical or family emergency that requires me to stop the program but I expect to return to my studies after it passes, how will this work?

If for some legitimate medical or personal reason you must stop your progress in a trimester and you re-join the program in the next trimester we will do whatever we can to create a remediation opportunity so you can make up what you missed. If the majority of the trimester was missed you will be asked to repeat the course you missed in the next calendar year. Again you will not be able to take the bootcamp program until you successfully pass all three courses in the program.

If I get non-passing grade in a class, what kind of remediation is their or will I have to repeat the entire course again?

We always offer remediation for less than satisfactory work. When a small element of the course is either not turned in or turned in and judged unsatisfactory and there is a legitimate medical or personal emergency that has caused the poor performance, most of the time the faculty will issue an incomplete grade and create an individualized remediation plan. Of course, we monitor our students, sending them notes throughout the academic year encouraging them to not fall behind and to put in the effort needed to produce satisfactory work, but sometimes it happens. If however a failing grade is achieved, the reasons for the grade do not qualify as a true medical or personal emergency a failing grade will be issued. In this situation, the course must be repeated and unfortunately the full tuition must be paid for the repeated course.

Can I be expelled or dismissed from the program?

This is not an outcome we ever expect but yes, this is certainly a possibility, especially if a student does not engage and participate in the required elements of the course.