The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has announced a grant of $1,345,320 over five years to the University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry to provide improved access to dental care and increase student enrollment numbers of underrepresented minority and low-income students.
The grant is one of 10 given to national dental schools through the RWJF Pipeline Profession & Practice: Community-Based Education initiative. UCSF is the only dental school in California to receive a grant through the Pipeline initiative, which is designed to counteract the “silent epidemic” of oral disease affecting poor children, the elderly and many members of racial and ethnic minorities which was outlined in the May, 2000 Surgeon General’s Report on the Oral Health of the Nation.
“These dental schools will work to reduce gaps in care through community-based education programs that expand patient care to underserved patients,” said Judith Stavisky, senior program officer at RWJF.
California presents a challenge in the “silent epidemic” because the state’s immigrant and pediatric populations are significantly larger than the national average, and there is a disproportionate number of underserved populations in the state, according to William F. Bird, DDS, DPH, UCSF clinical professor of preventive and restorative dental sciences and principal investigator of the grant. Underserved populations include African-American, Latino, Native American and other underrepresented minorities.
“Twenty-eight percent of the state’s children have no dental insurance,” Bird said, “which is roughly twice the number of children in the state without medical insurance. “Nearly half of all California preschool children and 12 percent of all high school students have never been to a dentist,” he added.
The crisis also has a geographic dimension across the state. Sixteen of California’s 58 counties (which are mostly in the rural north of the state) have been declared as underserved by virtue of their underutilization of Denti-Cal (Medicaid). The crisis manifests itself at the same time that the dental profession in California finds practitioners in short supply, experiences daily erosion in the numbers of already scarce dental faculty, and suffers from under-funding of dental education. In addition, the California State government has recently announced budget cuts in the areas of clinical care for the underserved and student recruitment.
Bird said that the RWJF grant will be used to support and maintain the activities of the UCSF School of Dentistry in clinical care for the underserved and student recruitment. The grant will provide resources to expand the number of UCSF affiliated off-site community clinics used for rotations from 5 to 13 for the present externship program. Once these sites are secured, there will be an increase in the community dentistry rotation of the senior pre-doctoral dental students from 44 days to 60 days.
In addition, the funding will provide for curriculum reform in both didactic and clinical training in patient- care centers for dental and dental hygiene students. The funds will also increase treatment of underserved populations and provide additional culturally- competent care.
The RWJF funding also will allow for recruitment and retention through the successful Post-Baccalaureate Program, which will increase from 15 to 20 students, said UCSF School of Dentistry Associate Dean Julian Ponce. The one year curriculum provides both residential and academic experiences to increase the academic competitiveness of disadvantaged students who have applied, but not been admitted, to dental school. In the four years of the program’s existence (1998-2001), 100 percent of post-baccalaureate students have gained admission to at least one U.S. dental school.
Another source of recruitment involves the Recruitment by Alumni Program, Ponce said. This program relies on UCSF alumni to identify promising students from their local communities. The School of Dentistry intends to double the number of participating alumni from 62 to 124, and will be able to provide the network with additional resources to identify and encourage applicants from underserved communities.
## Other schools of dentistry receiving RWF Pipeline Profession grants include:
* Boston University School of Dental Medicine; Howard University College of Dentistry;
* Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry (Nashville, Tenn.);
* The Ohio State University College of Dentistry;
* University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine;
* University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry;
* University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry;
* University of Washington School of Dentistry; and
* West Virginia University Research Corporation.
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Twink Stern (415) 576-2557, UCSF News Services.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, based in Princeton, NJ, is the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care. It concentrates its grant-making in four areas:
* to assure that all Americans have access to basic health care at reasonable cost;
* to improve care and support for people with chronic health conditions;
* to promote healthy communities and lifestyles; and
* to reduce the personal, social and economic harm caused by substance abuse—-tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs.