The Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (GSDM) Department of Health Policy & Health Services Research and Department of Pediatric Dentistry have received a $2.8 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to train the next generation of pediatric dentists and dental public health experts.
The award is a five-year extension of a grant first received by the school in 2015. It 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 United States, the school said, there are still disparities across racial, ethnic, and socio-economic lines. For example, 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, the school said.
“We believe that one way of addressing the access issue is to equip dentists, our trainees, with two very different skills: to think about systems and programs, and to give them the clinical ability to care for children,” said Athanasios Zavras, DMD, MS, professor and chair of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry.
“This competitive five-year renewal is a testament to the innovations we introduced over the last five years in the interdisciplinary, team-based pediatric dental practice, and our impeccable record of training of a pediatric dentist with dental public health expertise,” said Zavras.
The grant funds dental public health residents and pediatric dentistry residents. All trainees funded by the HRSA are also required to complete a Nonprofit Management and Leadership certificate from Boston University’s Qestrom School of Business along with the rest of their GSDM specialty requirements.
One of the most important aspects of the program is equipping residents not only with clinical and a global health perspective but with business skills as well, according to Catherine Hayes, DDS, clinical professor in the Department of Health Policy & Health Services Research.
“Our goal is for [residents] to be trained and educated to be leaders in community health centers and Federally Qualified Health Centers,” 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. 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,” Hayes said. “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 collaborate with 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,” said Zavras.
The award positions GSDM to be at the forefront of training dentists and dental public health specialists to lead community health centers, Hayes said.
“To the best of my knowledge, there’s no other program that really marries dentists to leadership and management training,” Hayes said. “[The residents] really get this unique way to move forward with their career.”