Aroostook and Penobscot Counties in Maine are facing significant shortages of dental healthcare providers. To address this need, the University of New England (UNE) College of Dental Medicine has dispatched its first group of fourth-year dental students to complete 12-week clinical rotations there.
Known as Key Oral Health Scholars, these students are the first participants in the Key to Oral Health Program, a joint initiative of UNE and KeyBank of Maine designed to meet the growing lack of oral health services in the region. For example, 15 of 16 counties in Maine have been identified as dental health shortage areas, with many practicing dentists approaching retirement age in the next 5 to 10 years.
The Key Oral Health Scholars were chosen for their commitment to serving rural and underserved areas of Maine and their residents. They also have demonstrated a strong history of community service, offered a meaningful vision for addressing critical oral health problems in the state, and outlined a service-learning project that they will implement.
Each student will receive a comprehensive package including scholarship support, housing stipends, travel assistance, and dedicated funding to engage the community in robust service projects. The program’s long-term goal is to encourage students to return and build practices in these underserved areas after graduation.
As these students work in Federally Qualified and other health centers, they will also work with the public in providing oral health education in area schools and senior centers. The program will connect them with business leaders and local dental professionals as well, facilitating the development of relationships with community members.
The 2016 Key Oral Health Scholar award recipients are:
- Thanh Huynh of Da Nang, Vietnam
- Adam L’Italien of Enfield, Maine
- Dustin Nadeau of Brunswick, Maine
- Nathan O’Neill of Calais, Maine
- Dzhuliya Servetnik of Westfield, Mass
- Chelsea Toussaint of Madawaska, Maine
The 3-year project will comprise 12 Key Oral Health Scholars. UNE expects these students to deliver 4,000 to 5,000 oral healthcare patient visits before the program concludes. The project also is supported by the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation, the Fisher Charitable Foundation, and the PD Merrill Charitable Trust.