Dental School Expands Clinical Operation Into Southeast Kentucky

Richard Gawel


The residents of southeastern Kentucky, including many people who live in the Appalachian Mountains, lack dental care because of poverty as well as transportation difficulties and a lack of dentists. To better serve them, the University of Louisville (UofL) School of Dentistry will work with the Red Bird Clinic to offer comprehensive general dentistry to the region.

“Our collaboration with the Red Bird Clinic is a significant step for the university as we seek to systematically serve our mission to provide healthcare throughout the Commonwealth and improve the overall well-being of its citizens, said Greg Postel, MD, interim UofL president.

Beginning February 23, dental and dental hygiene students will begin clinical rotations at the Red Bird Clinic. Each week, 6 students will travel to Beverly, Ky, and help staff the dental clinic there, open Thursday through Saturday. The clinic provides a variety of services to about 20 to 25 patients daily, including cleanings, fillings, root canals, crowns, bridges, and extractions.

“This new clinical site enhances the education of our students with enriching cultural and clinical practice experiences that will make them compassionate, exceptional dental healthcare providers,” said Gerard Bradley, DMD, BDS, MS, dean of the UofL School of Dentistry.

The Red Bird Clinic is a nonprofit that grew out of the Red Bird Mission, which started in 1921 with a private school and expanded to include medical and dental services, job training, a clothes closet, a food pantry, adult education, services for senior citizens, and more. Its relationship with the UofL School of Dentistry aims to increase the availability of dental treatment for the underserved.

“It is our hope that some of these students will be drawn to practice in rural areas,” said Kari Collins, executive director of the Red Bird Clinic. “Perhaps someone will return to serve at Red Bird Clinic in the future.”

“Everything is not cut and dry at outreach clinics. High difficulty levels provide challenges for the students and increase their abilities. It’s amazing to watch as they begin to put things together and their eyes and faces become bright with satisfaction,” said Bill Collins, DMD, dental director at the Red Bird Clinic.

“I try to ask students to learn one new thing each day. If they continue this, it will make them good, confident practitioners,” said Collins.

Other UofL School of Dentistry alumni—Greg Bently, DMD, Susan King, DMD, and Bob McGuinn, DMD—will serve on rotation as gratis faculty to oversee the UofL students. Already, some dental students have engaged in clinical dental services at the Red Bird Clinic, including the school’s 4 Outreach Scholars.

“It has been a blessing to pursue a career in dentistry, and it is important for me to use my education to give back to fellow Kentuckians as I gain valuable experience in outreach clinics,” said fourth-year dental student and Outreach Scholar Robbie Troehler, who also has served in 5 other clinics throughout the state as part of the Outreach Scholar program.

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