Connecting Education to Communities: Community Dental Rotations at the OHSU School of Dentistry
Mike Plunkett, DDS, MPH
Last summer many of you read about students from
According to the 2007 Oregon Smile Survey 35% of Oregon children in 1st through 3rd grade have untreated tooth decay, and 63% have experienced tooth decay either treated or untreated. Moreover, Oregon children's oral health is poorer than neighboring states of Washington, California, Idaho and Alaska. The statistics are not much better for elderly citizens, especially those living on a fixed income in geographically underserved areas. The Smile Survey also reported that approximately half of Oregon's dentists practice in the Portland Metro area, a trend that shows no sign of reversing in the short term.
Most can agree that if these issues are left unaddressed the situation will only worsen. The OHSU School of Dentistry is deeply concerned about access to care and development of the future workforce. Consequently, one way that we are addressing these issues is by developing a statewide community-based dental rotation program.
By extending the walls of the dental school
Education at a Glance
Community-based education has been established
as a valuable educational method for nurturing a sense of community
responsibility in health professions students, as well as a successful
introducing students to a diversity of practice settings. This
has been successful at many dental and medical schools in the U.S. and
around the world. For example, dental
schools at Ohio State, the University of Kentucky, and the University of
Carolina require a minimum of 60-days of community-based clinical
Community-Based Education at OHSU SOD
Like many of the most successful
programs around the country, our approach is grounded in strong
with affiliated communities. As director
of the program I have personally visited 18 potential practice sites in
More than 20 students have completed "pilot" rotations. During these rotations students provided approximately 40 weeks of clinical care in 11 Oregon communities.
Beginning Fall term 2009, all OHSU 4th year dental students will be given the opportunity to complete a 2-week community experience. The rotations will span the entire senior academic year, and students will be extended credit for time spent in the community. The majority of the students' time will be spent treating patients in a variety of community health centers and rural private dental practices under the direct supervision of an OHSU-affiliated volunteer clinical faculty. While on rotation, students will also participate in activities conducted by other OHSU community partners. Examples of such activities include direct involvement in practice-based research, school-based preventive and educational programs, and oral health policy advocacy to state and local elected officials or regulatory bodies.
As part of the curriculum, each student will complete a personal and professional development report which provides an opportunity for reflection on the impact of the community-based experience.These reports will lay the foundation for the student's life-time professional development, commitment to service and community collaboration, and ensure awareness of the comprehensive and complex nature of health care for vulnerable populations.
To assess the impact on the community, OHSU School of Dentistry will monitor and analyze patient interactions. Such data will include number of patients treated, procedures performed, and constructive feedback from on-site clinical faculty.
Vision for the future
Our vision is both logistic and philosophical. Logistically
we will continue to establish
community partnerships, evolve our curriculum, and provide students with
increased experiences throughout
Dr. Plunkett is an Assistant
Professor in the Department of Community Dentistry and
Director of Community Dental Rotations at
Oregon Health & Sciences University School of Dentistry. He can be reached at
503-494-8830 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org