Dugoni School of Dentistry Introduces The Pacific Center for Equity in Oral Health Care

The Pacific Center for Equity in Oral Health Care
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Center builds on school’s legacy of special care for marginalized, disabled populations

The Pacific Center for Special Care at University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry is now the Pacific Center for Equity in Oral Health Care. Under the leadership of director Elisa Chávez, DDS, professor in the Department of Diagnostic Sciences, the newly re-named center is building on its 30-year history of innovation to improve access to care for those with barriers impacting their oral health.

The work of the Pacific Center for Equity in Oral Health Care includes promoting telehealth initiatives to extend the reach of the dental team into schools, community centers and long-term care facilities; advocacy and integration of oral health programs into the California Regional Center System serving individuals with developmental disabilities; and developing the first online program for registered dental hygienists in alternative practice (RDHAP).

More recently, the COVID-19 crisis has confirmed that disparities in access to and outcomes of care exist along racial, ethnic and socioeconomic lines, and that people with disabilities are especially likely to have trouble getting the care they need. The Pacific Center for Equity in Oral Health Care is widening its lens to include all those whose health or socioeconomic conditions have adversely impacted their oral health, and to address the conditions under which these disparities persist.

“The Pacific Center is here to support and celebrate the work of all those in the Dugoni School family and our community partners who work every day to address inequities in resources for oral healthcare and dental education while improving outcomes in both,” said Dr. Chávez. “Their work informs advocacy for health systems and health policies that support the broad inclusion of oral healthcare as an integral and meaningful part of the healthcare system.” 

One example of the Pacific Center activities is the symposium on Geriatric Education, Access, Workforce and Policy that was held jointly with the California Dental Association in October 2019. Experts and stakeholders from California conducted an analysis of oral health needs, dental education, workforce, financial and reimbursement structures and legislative opportunities as they relate specifically to older adults in California. Proceedings authored by Dugoni School faculty members Dr. Chávez, Dr. Michelle Brady and Dr. Paul Subar were recently published in the Journal of the California Dental Association.

The Dugoni School was also recently awarded a Dental Faculty Loan Repayment Grant through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) that will be administered through the Pacific Center for Equity in Oral Health Care. This $858,000 grant will allow the Dugoni School to establish two faculty tracks: one in pediatric/special care/hospital dentistry and one in geriatrics/AEGD/hospital dentistry for both dental and dental hygiene faculty. Faculty will practice and teach in the dental school’s Special Care Clinic and Hutto Patterson Pediatric Clinic in San Francisco and the Union City Dental Care Center in the East Bay, in addition to Bay Area community partner hospitals and clinics, to enhance their knowledge and skills as part of a larger healthcare team. The grant will allow the school to sustain current programs and develop new opportunities, reaching beyond the campus clinics to those most in need while preparing students for an ever-changing and increasingly diverse healthcare landscape.

“We are facing an inflection point as a profession to understand and address the health care needs of everyone in our communities,” said Dr. Nader A. Nadershahi, dean of the Dugoni School. “Dr. Chavez is the right person at the right time to lead these efforts through our Pacific Center as the Dugoni School continues to help people lead healthy lives.”

To learn more about the Pacific Center for Equity in Oral Health Care, visit the Center’s website or email pacificcenter@pacific.edu.

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