Philadelphia – A group of Penn Dental Medicine students joined Dean Mark Wolff in presenting at the recent conference of the American Academy of Developmental Medicine & Dentistry (AADMD), discussing the services provided through the School’s Care Center for Persons with Disabilities Personalized Care Suite and the educational experiences gained there in caring for this vulnerable population. The conference, Once Voice for Inclusive Health, was held June 3-5 in Orlando, prior to the 2022 Special Olympics US Games, also in Orlando June 5-12.
“We were thrilled to participate in the AADMD conference and attend the opening day of Special Olympics as well,” says Dean Wolff. “We are continuing to foster collaborations with both AADMD and the Special Olympics and this event provided an opportunity to strengthen those ties while offering a great experience for our participating students.”
Dean Wolff and the students presented on the topic “Innovation in Education to Improve Oral Health for Persons with Disabilities.” Participating students included fourth year students Brooke Talsania (D’23), Andrew Casey (D’23), and Danielle Silver (D’23), and third-year student Gabriella Ciancimino (D’24) – all of whom have been active members of the Penn Dental Medicine student chapter of AADMD. They spoke on different aspects of serving patients within the School’s Care Center for Persons with Disabilities. With the opening of the Care Center in 2021, DMD students at the School now gain significant hands-on experience managing patients with a wide range of disabilities.
“I came into dental school with an interest in working with the intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) population. When I found out about the mission of the School’s AADMD club and organization, I knew I wanted to be a part of the community since the start,” recalls Brooke, a community honors student, who has served as co-president of the School’s AADMD chapter with Andrew this academic year. “I am very privileged to have been able to attend the conference and share my thoughts and opinions.”
Danielle, a Master of Public Health dual-degree student and research chair of the AADMD chapter, agrees. “I was very excited to present since I have been involved in some sort of research in this field since the beginning of dental school, including a research proposal for Special Olympics and children with caries,” she notes.
For Gabriella, who will be president of the AADMD chapter with the start of the next academic year, finding a group of like-minded peers has played a vital role in growing her passions for serving the I/DD population. “My experience at the conference allowed me to meet some of the greatest leaders in breaking this disparity in oral healthcare,” she says, “while also feeling empowered to make a difference myself.”
“I feel very strongly about increasing clinical education in dental schools for the I/DD population and feel very fortunate for my experience at Penn Dental Medicine in this area,” adds Brooke. “It is very important that the next generation of dental practitioners feel competent and confident to go into the real world with open arms to treat these individuals.”