Monday, April 28, 2008

Doctors without degrees

If Dentists overcharge, in comes the therapists.

The last bastion that requires a formal degree – medicine – comes tumbling down in distant Alaska.

In places like Alaska where there is an alarming shortage for Dentists, there is a state sponsored program to train non-Dentists to do the basic dental care - filling cavity, cleaning and drilling. The Alaska program is small, with fewer than a dozen therapists practicing so far. But the early results are promising, according to dental health experts who are studying the program. Dentists are objecting because they say these “Dental therapists” as they are called, are low cost competition.

A good case for Doctors to bring down their fees, I guess. I also think such alternate options, at least with most basic features should crop up in every function so that overcharging-because-of-scarcity should end. Think of underperforming MBAs in enterprise, harebrained engineers, overrated pilots – it’s the expensive education that perches them up in society than their cerebral hierarchy or creative mind. If the same training were made available at a low cost to all those that make the cut, several kids from poor families would’ve made it and may even have done their parents and country a lot proud. Hopefully, the patients will go back just with their tooth plucked and not pockets picked.

At debates on relative importance of higher education in achieving success in life or even entrepreneurship, the education advocates buttress their argument with an example of “would you like a quack to cure your disease?” Answer may be “certainly not” – but now it seems there is a middle path. We don’t need Doctors with a degree either – at least for elementary dental care.

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