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Profile of a CDHC: Renee Edwards

June 12, 2015 

 

Renee Edwards knows firsthand the difficulties of finding dental care.

A certified dental assistant, Ms. Edwards is one of seven students enrolled in a program at Central New Mexico Community College training them to help people in underserved communities better understand oral health and receive regular dental care.

But it was from her experiences growing up in Detroit that she learned the importance of having someone to help people navigate an often complex public health care system.

“I personally know what it’s like to need medical and dental care but not know where to go to find it,” she said.

Central New Mexico is the first college to offer the Community Dental Health Coordinator (CDHC) program since pilot program sponsored by the American Dental Association ended in 2012.

CDHCs play a vital role in improving access to dental care in underserved communities by providing dental health education and by helping patients navigate the public health system to receive care from dentists. They work in inner cities, remote rural areas and Native American lands. Most grew up in these communities, allowing them to better understand the unique barriers and problems that affect access to dental care.

CDHC students learn interviewing skills, dental health teaching and learning skills, screening and classification, as well as palliative care skills, before entering internships with dentists in New Mexico communities.

Ms. Edwards works as a dental assistant at University of New Mexico (UNM) Dental Services, and also provides care at UNM Carrie Tingley Hospital, where she helps people with development disabilities and in the emergency room.

In May, Ms. Edwards and her classmates began 12-week CDHC internships in communities throughout the state. Ms. Edwards’ internship is at her current worksite, UNM Dental Services.

“I really enjoy what I do, and I feel fortunate to be working with the people in my community and my fellow graduates as we take on a new and exciting chapter in our lives,” she said.   

To learn more about the Community Dental Health Coordinator program, visit the ADA website or watch this video.