Community outreach has been a cornerstone of the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (GSDM) since its inception. Improving the overall health of the global population remains a key component of our School’s mission. At the same time, community service programs provide indispensable learning opportunities for our students. And opening the eyes of future health care professionals to health disparities in our nation and around the world is, we believe, a vital part of a complete education in dental medicine.
Each year, we pursue our community service goals through more than 60 individual programs and 100 events, annually helping over 15,000 people to receive high-quality oral health care services.
Effective, nationally recognized programs
GSDM’s Division of Community Health Programs (CHP) is dedicated to enhancing our students’ educational experience and improving our community’s oral health. We do so through strategic partnering, health education and promotion, and implementation of public health initiatives. The results have repeatedly gained national recognition.
In one of our initiatives, the Chelsea Comprehensive School-Based Dental Program, we increased dental health awareness and dental care access for public school children in Chelsea, MA. Our program is featured in the “Health Care Innovations Exchange” of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The site is designed to help health care professionals share and adopt innovations that improve delivery of care to underserved patients.
GSDM is also a leader in creating new knowledge aimed at eliminating dental disparities. For the Healthy Baby/Healthy Child Oral Health Program, we developed an innovative, evidence-based model for improving access to oral health care among underserved populations. GSDM faculty trains public health nurses to deliver oral health education and preventive care to high-risk pregnant women and their children. In another program, Oral Health Advocates in Public Housing, we train residents in motivational interviewing and oral health promotion to help prevent dental decay in young children.
For more on these and other programs, see Community Health Programs.
The lasting rewards of early service learning
Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) students begin their service learning activities in their first year with GSDM’s five city-wide, school-based oral health programs. During these rotations, students work under the supervision of GSDM faculty, preparing grade-appropriate lesson plans, conducting oral health education classes, and providing preventive services for children (dental screening, sealants, and fluoride varnish treatments).
Beginning their service learning early in the curriculum lets students begin acquiring preventive clinical care skills while developing a greater understanding of oral health disparities. For many, these experiences rank among the highlights of their education. Ultimately, the programs help create a generation of dentists who are socially aware and committed to lifelong community engagement.