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Dr. A. Wade Boykin

Dr. Janis Mercer
March 2006

Inside the College of Dentistry’s Simulation Laboratory, an instructor teaches Pre-Clinical Operative Dentistry.  During the session, the instructor displays images of a patient’s teeth on the LCD flat panel monitors that are installed at each student’s workstation.  When needed, the instructor magnifies the images to direct the students’ attention to a particular detail.  At other times, the instructor displays four still images at a time on the monitors.

The instructor is Dr. Janis Mercer, an Assistant Professor in the Restorative Department of the College of Dentistry.  Since 2004, Dr. Mercer has served as the Director of the Simulation Lab, one of 24 simulation labs in the U.S.  As Howard Provost Dr. Richard English observed, “…this lab typifies what it means to be on the cutting-edge.”

However, according to Dr. Mercer, she was not always on the cutting-edge.  When personal computers emerged on the scene, she initially relied on secretaries and her daughter to complete her computer tasks.  Soon, however, she decided to learn more about information technology because she discovered, “It makes my life simpler.”

Dr. A. Wade BoykinThanks to her knowledge of information technology, Dr. Mercer no longer depends upon secretaries and relatives.  She spends less time duplicating course materials and more time communicating with students (via email) on the spur of the moment.

In the Simulation Lab, she has witnessed how information technology has made instruction not only simpler but more effective.  Before the College built the Simulation Lab, 8 to 10 students had to crowd around an instructor to observe a dental preparation or a demonstration.  “The students really couldn’t see,” Dr. Mercer recalled.  Now up to 45 students can see the same image simultaneously.

Although learning how to use the digital lab equipment takes time, Dr. Mercer believes the effort is worth the time, and, apparently, her students agree.  “The students are very savvy about digital equipment,” she says.  “They want it all!”


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