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Symposium takes aim at oral health disparities

July 11, 2016

By Michelle Manchir

San Francisco — More than 60 dental, medical, nursing, dental hygiene and community health professionals gathered here June 11 to address an ongoing oral health dilemma: disparities and access to care for children in underserved communities.

Photo of Dr. Lin
Dr. Lin
University of California, San Francisco’s first-ever Oral Health Alliance Symposim was one component of an initiative from the school funded by a five-year, $1.75 million grant Dr. Brent Lin received in 2015 from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. The grant has Dr. Lin on a mission to develop and implement collaborative oral health training for primary health care trainees and prepare the workforce to care for those in underserved, rural and vulnerable populations.

“Innovation is needed to address the issue,” said Dr. Lin, a clinical professor at the UCSF School of Dentistry, director of the university’s pre-doctoral pediatric dentistry program and director of the UCSF Oral Health Alliance. “Working together with primary health care providers from different disciplines, individuals from different sectors (e.g. administrator in nonprofit community health), people or trainees from different backgrounds are critical and will be the future trend in health care professions.”

Speakers at the symposium included Dr. Lin; Karissa Moreno, chief of operations at Livingston Community Health, a central California nonprofit center that provides primary and preventive health services to patients regardless of their ability to pay; Dr. Remya Niranjan, a dentist at Livingston Community Health and volunteer clinical instructor at UCSF School of Dentistry; Karen Duderstadt, Ph.D., clinical professor of family health care nursing at the university; and Dr. Sheila Brear, associate dean for academic affairs at the university’s dental school.

Photo of UCSF dental students Dien Sun, Brian Lee and Kathleen Marcelo
Standing up for dentistry: On the day of the UCSF Oral Health Alliance Symposium, college students were invited to learn more about dentistry as a profession. Guests heard presentations from current UCSF dental students, including (from left) Dien Sun, Brian Lee and Kathleen Marcelo.
Dr. Lin said getting health care providers and community health care stakeholders in the same room is among the first steps to addressing the oral health needs of underserved children.

 “Many networks and collaborations have been established during and after the symposium,” he said. “Participants have expressed that they have learned a lot during the sessions, got to know what opportunities are out there and what other people were doing, and were inspired and intrigued by the program initiatives created by us.”

The symposium will continue as an annual event, Dr. Lin said. The second one is scheduled for April 8, 2017, and is expected to feature poster and oral presentations by trainees enrolled in the university’s interprofessional education program, dental hygiene fellowship program and student community enhancement scholarship program.  All are invited to attend.

The university is also expected to post presentation information and video from the June 11 symposium on the Oral Health Alliance’s website, oralhealth.ucsf.edu.
Dr. Lin and his team on June 11 at the school also led a “College Day,” in which college students from underrepresented minority or lower socioeconomic backgrounds and students with military experience were invited to attend an informative session about dentistry as a profession.

”It was organized to stimulate interest in pursuing dentistry as a career for these college students with the intent for them to return and to serve their communities,” Dr. Lin said, adding that scholarship opportunities for college students working on a community-based oral health project under the mentorship of Dr. Lin and his graduate assistant were also announced at the event.

The symposium and College Day, Dr. Lin said, are part of a multi-pronged approach to addressing oral health disparities. The approach also includes interprofessional education and a clinical care program for primary care trainees in medicine, nursing and dentistry; a pediatric dentistry curriculum in the dental hygiene program; and a fellowship program that trains dental hygienists to work with children and with people with special needs.

“It’s going to get everybody involved,” Dr. Lin said of his work through the federal grant.

For more information about Dr. Lin’s work, visit oralhealth.ucsf.edu.