01/07/2015 02:32 EST | Updated 03/09/2015 05:59 EDT

Dalhousie dentistry suspension 'the right step,' says former UBC prof

A former dentistry professor at the University of British Columbia says the temporary suspension of 13 dentistry students at Dalhousie University is "the right step to take at this time."

Dalhousie University recently suspended thirteen dentistry students for making violent sexual comments about women on Facebook.

Joan Rush taught in the faculties of law and dentistry at UBC. She now dedicates her time to dentistry issues affecting adults with disabilities.

"I don't believe that any of the female students at Dalhousie, which would include the female dental students, the dental hygienist students, the dental assistants, should be in a position where they feel very, very uncomfortable about the classmates who are working with them and alongside them," Rush said to On the Coast host Stephen Quinn.

In December Rush wrote a critique of the leaders of the dentistry industry calling it a "white male bastion."

She said the sexist attitudes expressed by some Dalhousie students are a sign of a bigger problem with the profession. Rush told host Stephen Quinn that, currently, leadership of the dentistry profession and dentistry faculties is almost exclusively male.

In response to her op-ed and to the situation at Dalhousie, the Canadian Dental Association issued a statement saying "There is no place for misogynistic attitudes in the dental profession."

The Association also said women represent the majority of new dental graduates and that over time they will take leadership positions. 

Rush said more needs to be done to ensure that happens.

"I do believe we need to see greater encouragement," said Rush.

She hopes that a greater diversity of representation will translate to more assistance for those who do not have access to dental services.

"I like to hope that when we have more voices - more diverse voices, including women, including visible minorities, represented in the leadership of dentistry and in the faculties of dentistry, we will also see a shift to acknowledging the needs of more Canadians."

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio link labelled: Former dentistry professor Joan Rush on Dalhousie suspensions.