Universities Plan Collaboration to Improve Oral Health Education and Care

Dentistry Today


Cooperation, not competition, is in the works for a pair of leading dental schools as the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine (CDM) and the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) are teaming up to advance oral health through community-based research, education, and care. The schools will pool academic and research resources to provide opportunities for students and faculty to develop joint ventures.

The agreement identifies shared interests such as community needs assessment and continuous care, oral health literacy, research on biomedical services and management technology, smartphone and mobile medical apps and systems, and student educational programs. Each project will be designed to strengthen dentists’ attention to specific community needs both in Puerto Rico and in the mainland United States.

“As any clinician treating a new population discovers, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to care,” said Christian S. Stohler, DMD, dean of CDM. “We hope that our community-based collaborations lead to more informed approaches to addressing oral health needs.”

In addition to research, student opportunities may help address the shortage of Hispanic and Spanish-speaking dentists in the continental United States, as identified by organizations such as the Hispanic Dental Association.

“We are the leading educational institution for oral health professionals in Puerto Rico and Latin America,” said Ana N. López Fuentes, DMD, MPH, dean of the School of Dental Medicine at UPR. “By working with communities in Puerto Rico and New York City, we will encourage cultural competence in future clinicians. I believe this can help strengthen care for underserved Hispanic communities throughout the nation.”

The schools already have a longstanding relationship, as Columbia helped found the UPR dental school 60 years ago. Also, Stohler noted, the schools’ visions dovetail, taking a holistic and evidence-based approach to patient care, strengthened by the positions within academic medical centers.

“We strongly believe that oral health is essential to overall health and must be advanced by research, creating an evidence-based approach to care,” said Stohler.

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