UTHealth Opens Physicians’ Clinic at Dental School

Dentistry Today
Photo by Brian Schnupp.


Photo by Brian Schnupp.

Many patients often postpone dental care because they’re dealing with other health issues that also demand their attention—or vice versa. Now they can take care of their teeth as well as the rest of their body at the UT Health School of Dentistry’s UT Physicians Community Clinic, which also is located inside the school. UT Physicians is the clinical practice of the McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. 

“Each year, we see approximately 20,000 new patients in our student, resident, and faculty practice (UT Dentists) clinics,” said dean John Valenza, DDS, “and a significant number of them don’t have a primary care provider. As a consequence, they have undiagnosed or untreated medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease.”

With a UT Physicians clinic inside the dental school, some patients may be able to be treated and resume their dental appointments that day. More often, though, they will be treated at the on-site clinic initially, then connected with a UT Physicians primary care medical clinic in their home communities. 

“We are uniting our goals to improve the overall wellness of everyone who enters the doors of UTHealth,” said Andrew Casas, chief operating officer of UT Physicians and senior vice president of UTHealth. “The missions of UTHealth School of Dentistry, UT Dentists, and UT Physicians closely align. We don’t want to address just one aspect of health. This partnership represents the very best of what the university can offer the public.” 

Poor systemic health can have a negative impact on oral health, “so helping these patients with medical care is in line with our vision of improving oral health by improving overall health,” said Valenza.

UT Physicians clinics also will be referring patients to the dental school, sometimes offering special services such as $19 flu shots for dental patients only.

School of Dentistry professor Karen Novak, DDS, PhD, special assistant to the dean, led a team effort to assess feasibility and then establish the clinic in cooperation with UT Physicians. With that accomplished, Novak recently announced that associate professor Gargi Mukherji, DDS, of the Department of General Practice and Dental Public Health, will coordinate oral healthcare with the UT Physicians Clinic going forward.

UT Physicians senior practice manager Adrienne Finley, MPH, MS, will oversee the clinic, where patients will be seen by a family nurse practitioner, Rachell Nguyen, DNP, RN, NP-C, and medical assistants Thalia Quintanilla and Julissa Luna. Thomas Murphy, MD, is the medical director. The UT Physicians clinic hours will match those of the School of Dentistry’s clinics, which vary by semester.

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