Penn Dental Medicine

Academic Programs & Admissions

DMD Program » Community Outreach/Service Learning

Community Outreach/Service Learning

Being engaged in the surrounding community and striving to make it a better place is a key piece of Penn’s mission and educational goals. Through the School’s varied outreach and service-learning programs, Penn Dental Medicine students provide much-needed oral health services to the community, while broadening their understanding of public health issues. These academically based service-learning programs provide students and faculty with the framework to complete community-based activities as an essential, required component of academic course work. In total, students log approximately 16,000 service hours each year in both required and elective community experiences and the honors program.

This integral part of the curriculum takes students outside of the School’s clinics and campus to connect with diverse segments of the public and come to understand the impact of social, cultural, and economic forces on oral health care. The service learning programs are also an innovative and sustainable model for increasing access to care within the community and provides dental students and faculty with multiple opportunities to work with community partners in existing service programs where oral health education and services can be readily implemented. The required nature of students’ activities ensures that all students receive a consistent level of mentored community activities, and provides a consistent presence in oral health programs organized with agency partners in the community.

A Curriculum Requirement: Each student is required to complete 82 hours of service activities before graduation, as well as a sequence of four academically based service courses (one in each four years of the curriculum). The following chart offers a summary of the four required service-learning courses:

Required Service-Learning Courses

Course Service-Learning Activities
First Year: Health Promotion 6 hours of classroom education in Philadelphia public schools
Second Year: Local & Global Public Health 12 hours of experiences with University interdisciplinary programs and other social service agencies
Third Year: Experiences in Community Health 24 hours of clinical activities in Philadelphia School District programs and LIFE Dental Center
Fouth Year: Advanced Experiences in Community Health 40 hours of clinical activities in Philadelphia School District programs and LIFE Dental Center

Students also have the opportunity in their second, third, and fourth years to apply to the honors degree program in Community Health. The honors program allows talented and motivated students to go beyond the basic requirements to receive an intensive experience in developing and implementing community health programs from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Community Service Programs & Partners

Penn Dental Medicine’s academically based service-learning program is based on a high level of collaboration between the University and community-based partners in West and Southwest Philadelphia, including:

  • School District of Philadelphia: Since 1994, Penn Dental Medicine students and faculty have worked with school district officials to complete classroom education and mandated dental examination at 22 elementary and high school public and parochial schools. In 2003, the PennSmiles mobile dental vehicle began operation, providing comprehensive dental care to school children, and in 2009, the school-based dental sealant programs was instituted using portable dental equipment.
  • Community-Based Dental Care: Beginning in 2010, rotations for dental students were initiated at Penn’s School of Nursing’s LIFE (Living Independently for Frail Elders) Center, to provide expanded access to care for the geriatric population at LIFE. In 2011, Penn Dental Medicine opened a dental clinic at Sayre Health center, a federally qualified health center located at Sayre High School in West Philadelphia; students in the community health honors degree program provide care at Sayre Health Center.
  • Interdisciplinary Health Care Programs: Penn Dental Medicine students and faculty work in collaboration with Penn medical, nursing, and social work students to provide oral health education, dental screenings, and referral for dental care at five University-based interdisciplinary care clinics: Chinatown Clinic, Homeless Health Initiative, Puentes de Salud, University City Hospitality Coalition, and United Community Clinic.

Community Health Honors Degree Program

Students enrolled in the Community Health honors degree program provide at least 120 hours in coordinating and staffing these interdisciplinary clinics, and second- and third-year students provide specialized oral health educational programs, complete oral health examinations, and discuss dentist referrals to both the Penn Dental Medicine clinics as well as neighborhood dental centers.

Community Outreach/Service Learning

Program & Faculty Features

The First Five Years

An Innovative Grant Program Promotes a Holistic Approach to Treating Very Young Patients

Penn Dental Journal,

Spring 2018

Read PDF »

The Robert Schattner Center
University of Pennsylvania
School of Dental Medicine
240 South 40th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6030