Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine’s departments of Health Policy & Health Services Research and Pediatric Dentistry recently received almost $3 million from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to train the next generation of pediatric dentists and dental public health experts.
The $2.8 million grant, a five-year extension of a grant first received by the school in 2015, will fund efforts to create a new model for a pediatric dental clinic that uses an interdisciplinary team-based approach to provide care and educate dentists—particularly dentists from underrepresented communities.
While oral health in children continues to improve in the U.S., there are still disparities across racial, ethnic, and socio-economic lines: Black and Hispanic/Latino children, as well as children living in poverty, tend to have less access to dental care and experience more (and more severe) oral health disease.
“We believe that one way of addressing the access issue is to equip dentists, our trainees, with two very different skills—[to teach them] to think about systems and programs, and to give them the clinical ability to care for children,” said Athanasios Zavras, professor and chair, Department of Pediatric Dentistry.
“This competitive five-year renewal is a testament to the innovations we introduced over the last five years in the inter-disciplinary, team-based pediatric dental practice, and our impeccable record of training of a pediatric dentist with dental public health expertise,” Zavras continued.
The HRSA grant funds dental public health residents and pediatric dentistry residents. All trainees funded by HRSA are also required to complete a Nonprofit Management and Leadership certificate from BU’s Questrom School of Business along with the rest of their GSDM specialty requirements.
For Catherine Hayes, clinical professor of Health Policy & Health Services Research, one of the most important aspects of the program is equipping residents with not only clinical training and a global health perspective, but business skills as well.
“Our goal is for [residents] to be trained and educated to be leaders in community health centers and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC),” Hayes said. “It’s often the case that clinicians get put into these roles where they now have to manage huge budgets, personnel, fundraise….all these things you don’t get training for in a dental school or public health program.”
Hayes designed a program where, over two years, residents complete their dental public health requirements and the Nonprofit Management and Leadership certificate from the Questrom School of Business.
“It’s such a fabulous program,” Hayes said. “A portion of it is didactic and then they do case studies and discussion and they bring in people who have really great hands-on experience … it really felt like it would be practical and applicable for what they [the residents] would be called on to do in a community health center setting.”
The award also allows the department of Pediatric Dentistry to create collaborations with a number of healthcare professionals, including pediatricians, nurses, speech pathologists, dieticians, occupational therapists, and social workers.
“Having a one-stop shop where children can come in and have their diet analyzed, as well as [receive] a speech and language assessment, has proven to be very useful,” Zavras said.
For Hayes, the award positions GSDM to be at the forefront of training dentists and dental public health specialists to lead community health centers.
“To the best of my knowledge there’s no other program that really marries dentists to leadership and management training … [the residents] really get this unique way to move forward with their career,” Hayes said.