A doctor with rubber gloves writing.

For many dentists, attending Spear Campus workshops in Scottsdale, Arizona, has been a source of excitement and anticipation.

For years, my annual – sometimes quarterly – trips to Scottsdale created excitement around gaining new knowledge, meeting old and new friends, and sharing in the camaraderie and collaboration in such a scenic setting.

Spear Workshops have been open for months, but so many of us remain virtual, given today's realities around COVID-19. Still, the entire campus team has done a remarkable job of maintaining a safe and supportive environment, with reduced workshop sizes and increased safety protocols.

Check out our 2021 campus calendar to learn about your options for clinical, hands-on CE that gives you the opportunity to learn alongside faculty in the traditional lab setting.

We are now all living, working, and learning in a COVID-19 world. The coronavirus pandemic has changed everything. So much of what we knew or believed was normal has changed. Mask wearing and face coverings are mandated. Social distancing abounds.

There are restrictions and limitations of opportunities, destinations, and gatherings. Health and safety have never been so much at the forefront of our lives. And, above all, interpersonal relationships and interaction have been reduced or quelled altogether.

It is different. It is sad. It is frustrating. But it is not the end, and I've been inspired by the push to maintain a campus presence that meets our needs and keeps us all safe based on what we're facing in 2021.

Occlusion, airway, TMD, implants and more

I have taught two “Restorative Design” workshops with Dr. Bob Winter since the campus reopened. Unlike the past, Spear Workshops are exclusively offered on campus now, with Spear Seminars now entirely online (learn more about 2021 Spear Seminars on the campus calendar).

Although workshop sizes are 50% of normal, the increased 1-to-1 ratio of participant to the educator provides an improved opportunity for interaction in the lab. This change alone is reason enough to consider taking a session that aligns with your clinical goals, should it make sense for your practice and personal life.

I was impressed with the safety protocols initiated upon entry to the building. Entry and exit doors are marked. Floor directional arrows manage traffic flow and social distancing.

Just like our practices, check-in tables, where body temperatures and COVID questionnaires are obtained, create an organized and efficient welcome screening that exemplifies the “elbow grease” that was exerted to create a smooth transition for everyone entering the building. As much as the lobby looks different, it still maintains the bright and welcoming atmosphere we've come to expect.

The workshop labs were reconfigured with plexiglass partitions. Each workspace is protected by three walls of plexiglass to ensure proper distancing and inter-participant safety. Individuals are safeguarded from adjacent individuals with every other seat configuration. And even though the plexiglass barriers provide respective space, vision to the presentation screen is not altered.

Surprisingly, the participants' ability to hear the presenter, and to ask questions, is also unaltered. More efficient tooth dust suction removal is an additional benefit that is noticeable in the “Restorative Design” workshop, due to the additional plexiglass.

Another observation, and a positive adjustment, is the cafeteria space and food service modifications. First, the meals are every bit as good and varied as they always were. M Catering, with Lois and her outstanding food service team, remains the vendor of choice.

Although many tables and chairs were removed, again for distancing reasons, the Spear Campus still maintains its lure for interaction and mingling of various workshop attendees. Of course, the patio space is open and allows for interactive seating and conversation. The only major change in the cafeteria is that meals are served by the team, rather than the self-serve, buffet-style you may remember. Although this may seem like a minimal alteration, it creates greater conversation, more interaction, and potentially a healthier (and less wasteful) opportunity.

Also relative to the Spear Campus opening, is the overall atmosphere of respect and attention given to face masks worn by everyone in the building. As much as there seems to be significant variation among the general population about the need and the preventive nature of mouth covering, there was not one instance during my trips to campus where a face covering (or the lack thereof) became an issue.

Again, respect, understanding, support, and value of personal space were acknowledged. This came as no surprise to me, reflecting upon the quality and type of dentist who attends Spear Workshops. But it was very reassuring to observe and experience.

In conclusion, I want to express my support for the “new” Spear Campus experience relative to COVID-19 safety.

Campus is open. It is clean. It is organized. It is SAFE. It is ready for you to return and continue your educational goals, connect with friends and colleagues, and experience the Great Dentistry that binds us all together. I look forward to seeing you in Scottsdale.

Jeffrey Bonk, D.D.S., is a member of Spear Resident Faculty.