BACKGROUND. The inclusion of ‘management’ competencies in medical curricula is widely propagated. There is some evidence in the literature that
undergraduate dental students regard clinical skills as more important than management skills.
OBJECTIVE. To investigate student perceptions regarding Dental Practice Management (DPM) as a subject in the undergraduate dental curriculum at the
University of Pretoria, South Africa (SA) and to relate these perceptions to their future career aspirations.
METHOD. A cross-sectional survey was conducted in 2012 by means of an anonymous questionnaire among second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-year dental
students (N=228) at the University of Pretoria’s School of Dentistry.
RESULTS. Of the 192 respondents, 92% (n=177) agreed that DPM should be a subject in an undergraduate curriculum, but there was no correlation with
their career aspirations. Leadership and management skills (77.6%), people skills (64.6%), communication and listening skills (46.4%) and personal
style (42.2%) were seen as the most important non-clinical skills. Students indicated their career aspirations as follows: private practice owners (45.3%,
n=81), public sector and military (15.1%, n=27), working abroad (13.4%, n=24) and Medicross/Intercare (11.2%, n=21). There were statistically
significant differences (p=0.001) among the study years with regard to private practice aspirations. Most students (81.7%, n=156) indicated that they
would specialise if afforded the opportunity.
CONCLUSION. In light of the prospects of the National Health Insurance (NHI) in SA, management and leadership skills will be vital to the successful longterm
implementation of the NHI; hence, academic institutions and government should address these issues as a priority in their undergraduate curricula.