Philadelphia — Penn Dental Medicine has plans to launch an innovative postdoctoral training program in general dentistry designed to educate dental residents in primary dental care for vulnerable and underserved patients. The School has been awarded $2.1 million over five years from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in support of this new Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD) program.
“This new program builds on our ongoing efforts at Penn Dental Medicine to address persistent health disparities and difficulties in accessing oral health care for vulnerable and underserved patients in Philadelphia,” says Dr. David Hershkowitz, Division Chief of Restorative Dentistry at Penn Dental Medicine and Principal Investigator on the HRSA grant. “It is our plan that program graduates will receive advanced knowledge, skills, and experiences to best serve these populations.”
Dental residents in the AEGD program are anticipated to be placed in two of the School’s community-based sites — Penn Dental Medicine at Sayre, a federally qualified health center (FQHC) where the School has a four-chair dental care center; and Penn Dental Medicine at Puentes de Salud, serving the Latino immigrant community, where Penn Dental Medicine provides primary dental care within a three-chair facility.
Dental residents will also complete clinical dental care within Penn Dental Medicine’s soon-to-open Care Center for Persons with Disabilities, and in the School’s clinical dental program for Survivors of Torture in partnership with Philadelphia’s Nationalities Service Center.
“Through Penn Dental Medicine’s substantial ongoing investment in treating vulnerable populations, we see not only the need for excellent comprehensive dental care, but also the need for advanced training in the delivery of that care,” says Dr. Olivia Sheridan, Professor of Clinical Restorative Dentistry, who leads the clinical care program for Survivors of Torture and will teach AEGD residents. “This program will provide that care and become a model for the advanced education of compassionate dental graduates to enhance their skills and understanding in the care of this population.”
Over the first two planning years (July 2020 – June 2022), Penn Dental Medicine will develop the program and apply for approval from the Commission on Dental Accreditation. It is anticipated that the first class will begin in July 2022, with four students accepted into the one-year program each year.
“The program will provide knowledge, skills, and clinical experiences in cultural competency and health literacy,” adds Dr. Joan Gluch, Division Chief of Community Oral Health and a member of the program faculty. “We will also be tracking outcomes and develop systems for evaluating program impact regarding both access to care for the vulnerable and underserved and the quality of care received by patients.”