The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Dentistry has received a $1.5 million grant from Delta Dental of California, the state’s largest dental benefits provider, to support the launch of a community-based clinical education program. The award is the largest that Delta Dental has ever given a dental school.
According to UCLA, many Californians face inadequate access to oral healthcare services for many reasons. The biggest challenges are the uneven distribution of providers, underfunded public health programs, lack of understanding of the importance of oral health, and difficulty in identifying available resources.
“This funding enables the dental school and delta dental to have an even stronger presence in bridging the gap with access to care in California. With Delta Dental’s generous support, we can expand our treatment reach and training capacity,” said Paul Krebsbach, DDS, PhD, dean of the UCLA School of Dentistry. “Because our program continually assesses and evaluates outcomes, the funding will enhance care for today’s patients, as well as tomorrow’s patients.”
Overseen by credentialed dental practitioners, fourth-year dental students will treat Medicaid recipients or people who struggle with access to care. The school will affiliate with federally qualified health centers, which treat underserved populations, and practices that focus on people living at or below 200% of the federal poverty level.
“Delta Dental is committed to broadening access to dental care for those who otherwise might go without,” said John Yamamoto, DDS, MPH, Delta Dental’s vice president of professional services. “We’re pleased to support the efforts of the community-based clinical education program at the UCLA School of Dentistry and, in doing so, the many patients and dentists who are so integral to the program.”
The funding will support startup costs to launch the program, which includes partnering with 12 dental clinics throughout California and the creation of an online mentorship program. The program also will initiate the use of electronic health record data monitoring, which will help facilitate audits leading to improved patient care protocols.
“We hope to achieve several outcomes over the next several years. First, our goal is to graduate the highest quality dentists and also increase pathways and awareness for our graduates into public health dentistry,” said Bill Piskorowski, DDS, program director and associate dean for community-based clinical education.
“Next, we hope to become a conduit of evidence-based information between experts and clinicians at remote locations and provide data to ensure best practices in healthcare delivery methods nationwide,” Piskorowski said.
Additionally, the funding will support the further development of the program’s sustainability model, which creates an efficient, cost-effective structure for student engagement, faculty commitment, and community impact.
“With Delta Dental as a partner, I am confident that we can create a robust and effective local oral healthcare delivery model that can be replicated in other parts of the state, nation, and world,” Krebsbach said.
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