The University Record, April 24, 2000

Dentistry forms five new partnerships to provide care across the state

By Jerry Mastey
School of Dentistry

The School of Dentistry recently announced a major expansion of its community outreach programs that provide oral health care services to thousands across Michigan.

With help from the public and private sectors, the School will join with five community-based organizations to provide oral health care services primarily to the underserved—those who lack the means and/or access to receive quality oral health care. The five are: Family Health Center, Battle Creek; Cherry Street Health Services, Grand Rapids; Hackley Community Care, Muskegon Heights; Marquette County Health Department, Marquette; Health Delivery Inc., Saginaw.

Organizations that helped make the partnership a reality were the Michigan Department of Community Health, the Delta Dental Fund, the Michigan Dental Association and its member district dental societies, and the Michigan Primary Care Association.

“This is a historic development for the University of Michigan School of Dentistry,” said Dean William Kotowicz. “These new partnerships are a major step forward in our efforts to expand the community-based education we now offer students in our dental and dental hygiene programs and to our postgraduate residents. And it offers significant, tangible benefits to thousands of underserved patients.”

Jed Jacobson, assistant dean for community and outreach programs, said the new community-based programs “are a logical extension of what dental, dental hygiene and graduate students learn in our clinics at the School of Dentistry. The classroom and clinic instruction they receive from our campus-based faculty will be complemented with firsthand experience in these communities.

“This is a win-win opportunity,” Jacobson added. “Our new partners win because with our help they can now treat more underserved patients and deliver more services in their clinics. Patients win because the partners will help them achieve maximum oral health care. Our students win because they will experience firsthand the interrelationship and complexity of oral health care issues in a patient-centered primary health care facility. And the community wins with healthy citizens not missing work or school or visiting a hospital emergency room due to an untreated dental problem.”

While treating patients in the School’s clinics is a significant element in gaining proficiency, Jacobson said, “what students learn in these communities will give them firsthand experience and knowledge on how socio-economic issues affect total health in general and oral health in particular.” Examples include interrelationships between oral health, systemic health, living conditions, education, annual income, age and cultural factors.

“By living and working in these communities, we anticipate students will gain a better understanding and appreciation of the problems in the communities outside Ann Arbor and how those problems can be solved with the resources available,” Jacobson added. “When you live and work in a community, you tend to take ownership of problems, become more involved, and look for solutions both in a professional setting and in your interactions with others in the community. Ultimately, some students may enjoy their experiences so much that they decide to take up residence in one of these communities after they graduate.”

The programs in the five communities will resemble a successful pilot program in Battle Creek. Approximately 100 fourth-year dental students will participate. Two fourth-year dental students will travel and remain at each site for a total of three weeks. During the year, about 24 pairs of dental students will deliver care at each site.

One dental hygiene student will visit two of the sites periodically. A postgraduate student, who will be at each site for a total of four months, will provide more extensive oral health services to those in need. Students will receive academic credit for their community work.

“I am grateful for the support we have received from each new partner, the help from organizations in the public and private sectors, and our School of Dentistry task force that helped make this a reality,” Kotowicz said.

Instrumental in forging the agreement were members of the School’s Community-Based Education Task Force—Robert Feigal, Dennis Turner, Fred Burgett, Amid Ismail and Jacobson.

Kotowicz noted that since Jacobson became assistant dean for community and outreach programs in 1997, “he has worked tirelessly to expand the scope of our collaboration with agencies across the State of Michigan. Over the years, he planted the seeds during his initial contacts and follow-up meetings with officials from these organizations. Now we’re seeing the fruits of those efforts.”

Public and private sector collaboration

Several public and private sector organizations collaborated with the School of Dentistry to make the five new partnerships a reality:

  • The Michigan Department of Community Health will provide funds both for direct oral health services and related costs for the community-based educational partnerships.

  • The Delta Dental Fund, the dental philanthropic arm of Delta Dental Plan of Michigan, will provide funds for the next two years to help expand the program to outreach sites that include children, geriatric nursing homes and adult Medicaid recipients.

  • The Michigan Dental Association, through its member district dental societies, supports the partnership as member dentists volunteer to supervise dental students at selected sites.

  • The Michigan Primary Care Association will help through its SEARCH program to secure student housing.

  • The Michigan Campus Compact, the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Civic Engagement Program provided funds for the development of this model.

    About the School of Dentistry

    The School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care and community service. General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the School to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan. Classroom and clinic instruction train future dentists, dental specialists and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia and public agencies. Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide. More information is on the Web at www.dent.umich.edu.