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‘Stars aligned’ to open rural clinic

‘Stars aligned’ to open rural clinic
Dr. Stohler. Photo courtesy University of Maryland Dental School

Perryville, Md.—“A number of stars aligned” to open the University of Maryland Dental School Clinic in rural Perryville, said Dr. Christian Stohler, dean of the Baltimore-based dental school.

Established through a cooperative effort between UMB, Cecil County health department officials, community groups and industry, the state-of-the-art, 26-chair clinic is an innovative model that offers comprehensive emergency and routine dental care to the underserved, and also serves as an education hub for dental and dental hygiene students.

The Perryville clinic is located about 50 miles north of the dental school in Baltimore.

“The partnership was motivated by a desperate need for oral health care in the region,” said Dr. Stohler. “A study revealed that about 35 percent of all elementary schoolchildren in Cecil County had never been to a dentist, and many low-income adult and elderly residents did not have access to emergency dental care. We investigated the possibility of opening an extension 45 minutes away from the dental school campus, started looking for partners, including local health officials, community leaders, the community college and industry, and a number of stars aligned.”

Lisa Bress, assistant clinical professor, Dental Hygiene Program, University of Maryland dental school, left, confers with two students at the Perryville dental clinic as Cecil County State Delegate David Rudolph looks on
State-of-the-art facility: Lisa Bress, assistant clinical professor, Dental Hygiene Program, University of Maryland dental school, left, confers with two students at the Perryville dental clinic as Cecil County State Delegate David Rudolph looks on.

First- and fourth-year dental students and local dental hygiene students from Cecil College serve externships in the clinic, receiving exposure to clinical dentistry and treating the underserved, said Dr. Stohler. “It’s a good starting point for first-year students to see hands-on dentistry. They become connected to the profession in a very exciting way. Students I have talked to are enthusiastic and eager that there is a model that can provide treatment to the underserved in an elegant way.”

The clinic is also connected to UMB Baltimore College of Dental Surgery through live telemedicine links that allow the school to limit its education costs by keeping a low faculty-to-student ratio and limiting the number of specialists.

Lisa Bress (left) of the University of Maryland Baltimore College of Dental Surgery provides dental hygiene care for a patient at the dental clinic in Perryville.
Chair time: As a student observes, Lisa Bress (left) of the University of Maryland Baltimore College of Dental Surgery provides dental hygiene care for a patient at the dental clinic in Perryville. Photos by Stephen Berberich
So far, the clinic has treated more than 2,500 patients, including many in need of urgent dental care services since it softly opened 15 months ago. Last month, about 80 invited guests attended an unveiling of a wall of plaques honoring donors. Contributors include dental equipment manufacturers Planmeca of Finland and Bien-Air of Switzerland, who donated some $3 million worth of dental chairs, drills and hand-held tools. Other corporate donors include Johnson & Johnson Professional Affairs and Colgate Oral Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Project partners include Cecil College, Union Hospital, Cecil County Public Schools, and two-dozen community organizations.

“Service to others is something we as dentists aspire to,” said Dr. Stohler. “The desire was there and the community came together. We’ve learned that we can change the mindset and open doors and we can be more effective by working together rather than working as individuals. Through this model, we can provide first class dental care for patients who would otherwise have little opportunity for such an experience in their lives.”