About The ACT Curriculum

ACT Overview

The UNC Adams School of Dentistry developed the Advocate-Clinician-Thinker (ACT) Curriculum for the Predoctoral DDS Program. The third-year and fourth-year curriculums were launched in Fall 2021. The first-year curriculum will launch in Fall 2022 and the second-year curriculum will launch in Fall 2023.

ACT has four phases: basecamp, foundations of practice, guided and advanced clinical practice, and individualization. There are three streams of curricular content within each phase: biomedical sciences, clinical and behavioral sciences, and health systems sciences.

Thank you for your interest in learning about the Adams ACT DDS program!


Basecamp is dedicated to setting expectations for professional engagement, preparing learners for success, and contextualizing knowledge on biomedical and social sciences for clinical practice. This six-week phase is intended to provide the basics of dental education for the learner.

Foundations of Practice

Foundations of Practice includes the first two years of the curriculum that develop foundational knowledge and skills within integrated experiential learning and early clinical experiences. This phase aims to equip learners to provide person-centered care, integrate foundational sciences to enable effective clinical decision making, and build fundamental psychomotor skills and clinical techniques.

Throughout each semester, content for the three streams is delivered in six-week blocks to integrate content and align corresponding assessments. The biomedical sciences stream content is taught using a systems-based approach (e.g., respiratory, cardiovascular, hematology). The clinical and behavioral sciences stream focuses on the patient care experience and, in the first year, prepares learners on assessment and plan of care, including diagnosis and treatment planning.

Beginning spring semester of the first year, learners are vertically integrated into their assigned offices and work side by side with upper classmates in patient care, culminating in their first primary provider-patient assignment by summer of the first year.

During the second year, the curriculum builds within the specialty areas, focusing on provisions of care. The final stream, health systems sciences, includes practice management, public health, and interprofessional education.

Guided Advanced Clinical Practice

Guided Advanced Clinical Practice, or GAP, entails the clinical phase of the curriculum. The goals of GAP are to aid learners as they support person-centered care in clinical practice, refine the use of effective clinical decision-making, and develop advanced psychomotor skills and clinical techniques.

The clinic model focuses on simulating the clinical environment of today and the future, with two main practices — Old Well and Bell Tower — housing three vertically integrated offices. (See illustration here.) Each office is led by preceptors working in collaboration with specialties to promote care teams. Learners rotate through a variety of intramural specialty-focused rotations. The extramural service rotation, or Dentistry in Service to Communities program (DiSC), occurs during fourth year with learners rotating for five weeks throughout North Carolina communities.

At the end of each six-week block, the curriculum highlights experiential learning by bringing each office together to perform their “practice review,” a component of practice management examining key practice parameters important in managing and running a practice and office.

Seminars in third-year and fourth-year aim to mirror residency training with engaging hands-on and interactive learning. Such seminars include diagnosis and treatment planning, critical thinking and inquiry case-based learning, and fourth-year specialty seminars. Leadership seminar is a partnership with the Bell Leadership Institute to offer training for Adams learners at every six-week block, with a concentrated two-day event in the summer between third and fourth year.

Among the most unique aspects of the curriculum is the assessment framework, which moves away from singular to a longitudinal assessment with frequent reviews to maximize learner experience and academic growth. As recommended by the American Dental Education Association (ADEA, 2018), this can provide a more reliable and valid assessment of learners.


Individualization allows learners to explore various aspects of dentistry and outside our profession, offering learners experiences with electives, certificates, and special shadowing experiences in multiple areas of dentistry.

Adams learners can pursue a dual-degree program after their second year. Offerings include a DDS-MBA dual degree through the Kenan-Flagler Business School and a joint program at the Gillings School of Global Public Health for a MPH. Other individualization experiences include global service trips, which are planned to restart as soon as it is safe to do so.