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Community Dental Health Coordinator Program Coming To Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health

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Washington, D.C.—The American Dental Association today announced the opening of a fourth education and training site for students in its Community Dental Health Coordinator (CDHC) Pilot Project.  AT Still University Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health (ASDOH) this week finalized an agreement to open a CDHC program based at that institution's Mesa, Ariz., campus.  The program will host Cohort 3 CDHC students-the final class in the CDHC pilot project-who are training to work in American Indian Communities. 

The CDHC pilot project will create a new dental team member trained to improve the oral health of people who, for economic, geographic or cultural reasons, lack access to regular dental care.  In their initial phase of training, students complete 12 months of online coursework administered by Rio Salado College in Tempe, Ariz.  Upon successfully completing the didactic portion of their training, the students begin six-month internships. 

Temple University's Kornberg School of Dentistry trains students to work in inner cities; the University of Oklahoma trains students to serve in remote rural areas.  UCLA School of Dentistry hosted the first two cohorts of students training to work in American Indian communities. Students in Cohort 1 completed their coursework in fall 2010.  Cohort 2 students, also training at UCLA, will complete their training in fall 2011.  The third cohort of students in the American Indian track, who will train in conjunction with ASDOH, will enter the program this month.  

"We're excited to open this final phase of the CDHC project," said ADA President Raymond F Gist, DDS.  "ASDOH Dean Dr. Jack Dillenberg is committed to creating the best possible learning experience for them. And the school's numerous ties to the American Indian community offer unique opportunities for our students."

ASDOH's Dentistry in the Community program provides services in Apache, Hopi and other American Indian areas in Arizona and New Mexico.  The school has the nation's largest contingent of tribally enrolled American Indian Dental students and boasts a 100 percent graduation rate for those students.  All of ASDOH's American Indian graduates practice in American Indian Communities. 

Dr. Gist also cited the presence of Dr. George Blue Spruce, the nation's first American Indian dentist and a former US assistant surgeon general, who is ASDOH's assistant dean for Indian Affairs, calling him, "an eminent member of the dental community at large and an incalculable asset."

"Cultural competence is a key to the CDHC's success, said Dr. Gist.  "Too often, people entering communities with which they aren't familiar can encounter cultural or language barriers that impede their abilities to serve those communities.  Among the target population types-urban, remote rural and American Indians, the latter may present the greatest challenges to outsiders.  The American Indian CDHC track has always taken this into account, recruiting students from the same communities in which they will serve." 

Dr. Gist also praised the faculty and administrators at the UCLA School of Dentistry, who were instrumental in launching the American Indian CDHC track and will complete the course of training for CDHC Cohort 2 this fall.  Cohort 1 students completed their coursework at UCLA last year.

About the American Dental Association

The not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing 157,000 dentist members. The premier source of oral health information, the ADA has advocated for the public's health and promoted the art and science of dentistry since 1859. The ADA's state-of-the-art research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced the practice of dentistry and made the patient experience more positive. The ADA Seal of Acceptance long has been a valuable and respected guide to consumer dental care products. The monthly The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) is the ADA's flagship publication and the best-read scientific journal in dentistry. For more information about the ADA, visit www.ada.org. For more information on oral health, including prevention, care and treatment of dental disease, visit the ADA’s consumer website www.MouthHealthy.org.