100 Years of ADEA: Dr. Marita Inglehart


Marita R. Inglehart, Dipl. Psych., Dr. phil., Dr. phil. habil.

University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor
Professor of Dentistry & Adjunct Professor of Psychology
University of Michigan School of Dentistry

In addition to being University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor, Professor of Dentistry and Adjunct Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, Dr. Marita R. Inglehart is also a former Associate Editor of ADEA’s Journal of Dental Education (JDE). In her Q&A below, Dr. Inglehart reflected on how as a psychologist she became involved in dental education, and how younger generations are even more cognizant of the social determinants of health’s impact on the quality of health care.

Q. What is your professional background?

I am a psychologist who teaches behavioral science in the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. Working for this school started when I taught in the medical school, and the dental school needed a behavioral scientist and hired me in 1990. My research focused on social and health psychology, and I had just published a monograph on “Reactions to Critical Life Events: A Social Psychological Analysis” when I was hired. I think they liked that I had worked in stress and coping-related research.

Q. How has dental education become better at understanding the role social determinants of health play in the quality of health care?

Right from the start of teaching behavioral science at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, I taught a Behavioral Science II course that focused on the role of social determinants of health for oral health and for providing care for patients. I never called it this because in 1990, I didn’t even know the term. In this course, we talk every week about another non-medical factor that influences health outcomes, and these non-medical factors are referred to in the literature as social determinants of health.

Q. Have we as a profession become better at addressing it?

Yes. I think the awareness of their importance is much better understood now. I think in dentistry this increased awareness started in 2000 with the most important wakeup call concerning the relevance of social determinants of health: publication of the first-ever U.S. Surgeon General’s report on oral health. It showed the tremendous oral health disparities and access to care problems that persons from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds and/or underrepresented minority backgrounds or persons with disability have. I think we still did not explicitly call these factors social determinants of health, but it inspired increased reflections and research on these issues.

Q. As Associate Editor of the Journal of Dental Education (JDE), you’ve seen several research papers on dental education cross your desk. Are there any particular papers or subject matter that stood out to you over the years?

When I started as an Associate Editor, the 75th anniversary of the JDE was coming up and we put together a special issue with review papers of the most important topics in dental education. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear from the most thoughtful dental educators about their impressions of the field. That still is one of my most memorable set of papers. I still follow the JDE very attentively and was very excited to see the September 2022 special issue on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. It is even more impressive than the 75th anniversary issue and provides a wonderful overview of our field.

Q. How do you think dental education will evolve for GenZ and Generation Alpha, or will it stay the same for the most part?

I believe in value change over time, especially in the “silent revolution”—the shift from materialist to post-materialist values—a concept that my husband Ronald Inglehart introduced in 1977. Being in dental education since 1990, I am keenly aware of this change and see it all around me among my students and younger colleagues. It is reflected in the practice of dentistry as well. Students are very open to going beyond learning about “drill - fill - bill” to really becoming patient-centered dentists and dental hygienists who embrace diversity, equity and inclusion in a much more explicit way than previous generations. It is exciting to see this development in dental education and a privilege to be part of it.

Q. Which of your accomplishments in relationship to ADEA and/or dental education, in general, are you most proud of?

Definitely my work as an Associate Editor. It was a privilege to work with two editors who were absolutely dedicated to the JDE and support their efforts.