Oral AIDS clinic a model for teaching and care
By Tim Stoddard
The white spot under Morris' tongue is the sort of thing that most dentists
would overlook on a routine checkup. But in Laisheng Lee Chou's Oral AIDS
Clinic at the School of Dental Medicine, that innocuous white spot is
a tip-off to a potentially dangerous infection or tumor.
Chou gently lifts Morris' tongue with a piece of gauze, revealing the
white lesion to three dental students hovering around the examination
chair. For HIV-positive patients like Morris, it's important that future
dentists know how to recognize and treat these lesions in their early
stages. Over 90 percent of HIV-infected individuals develop oral lesions,
but the majority of these patients do not receive adequate dental care.
"The AIDS clinic teaches us how to look for anything suspicious,"
says Puneet Kocchar (SDM'03), "and follow up on it even though
The training model at the Oral AIDS Clinic is unique in this country.
According to Chou, who won the 2002 Metcalf Cup and Prize, the University's
highest teaching honor, SDM is the only dental school that offers this
kind of rotation to students before they receive their D.D.M. Most dental
schools cover HIV-related oral pathology only in lectures, leaving clinical
training to small postgraduate programs. "If they get this information
only in the classroom, without any clinical experience, how can they expect
to treat HIV patients with confidence in the future?" Chou asks.
David Parent (SDM'03) says that the oral AIDS rotation is pertinent to
his career even though he doesn't plan to specialize in oral medicine.
"I think it'll make me a much better practitioner to know what to
look for in HIV patients," he says. "It might not be the focus
of my practice to treat something like that, but I would definitely have
the knowledge to refer that person to the correct place."
Last year, SDM received the largest award from the Ryan White CARE Act
of any of the nation's dental schools. Monies allotted to SDM from the
federal fund - $555,000 - are allocated to oral health services for people
living with HIV. The grant pays unreimbursed costs incurred by dental
schools and postdoctoral dental education programs in treating patients