Kuwaiti dentist Alaa Al-Saffar, DDS, may be 7,000 miles from the Texas Medical Center, but that distance did not stop her from catching a lecture on mouth ulcers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).
Al-Saffar joined dozens of other clinicians from around the world during the first online lecture delivered through the new telementoring program at the UTHealth School of Dentistry. The July 1 talk was given by Jerry Bouquot, DDS, MSD, a pathologist and former department chair at the school.
“We’re making it easy for dentists throughout the world to keep up with the latest developments in our fast-changing field,” said Sudarat Kiat-amnuay, DDS, MS, professor and director of the Advanced Education in General Dentistry residency program at the school.
The program aims to make the school’s clinicians and researchers available to dentists and other healthcare providers in remote parts of the world with two-way voice and visual communication.
“We’ll be providing continuing education (CE) opportunities such as the recent free CE ulcer lecture by Dr. Bouquot. We’re also making our faculty members available for consultation on hard to treat cases,” Kiat-amnuay said.
The initiative is part of a worldwide movement to foster greater cooperation among caregivers called Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), launched at the University of New Mexico in 2003. Project ECHO at the UTHealth School of Dentistry initially will be focused on the dental care of seniors.
“There are lots of baby boomers, and many need help with their teeth,” said Kiat-amnuay, who directs the first Project ECHO initiative at UTHealth. “Oral health is a gateway to our overall health. Yet many Texans live in areas where dental services are in short supply.”
“Community outreach is a big part of our mission at the dental school. We treat patients of all ages, but we are particularly interested in helping children and the elderly,” said John Valenza, DDS, UTHealth School of Dentistry dean and William N. Finnegan III Distinguished Professor in the Dental Sciences.
“Much of the expertise that lives in academic health centers is not being shared with colleagues in rural and underserved areas. You could say it is being stored in silos, and Project ECHO is a way to share and disseminate this knowledge,” said Ellen Baker, MD, MPH, director of Project ECHO at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
The ECHO Institute at the University of New Mexico Health Science Center has designated MD Anderson an ECHO super hub for oncology. MD Anderson is one of nine ECHO super hub sites in the world and the first focused on oncology.
Participants can log into presentations from computers, tablets, or smartphones.
“These are virtual professional communities. There are hundreds of ECHO groups, but very few are focused on dental care,” said Baker.
Al-Saffar, who earned her DDS at the University of Kuwait, wasn’t the only international participant during the July 1 presentation. Dentists from Oman, Brazil, China, and Saudi Arabia also logged in. In keeping with the spirit of ECHO, there were online pre-tests and post-tests to identify improvements in the participants’ knowledge.