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CDHCs make a difference in their communities

Two Community Dental Health Coordinators who entered the workforce at the end of 2011 are making a difference in their communities beyond the dental operatory.

Calvin Hoops is currently the practice administrator for the Esperanza Health Center Dental Clinic. Esperanza is a bilingual community health center that services a predominantly Hispanic population in North Philadelphia.

Mr. Hoops said his CDHC training has enabled him to facilitate dental care within Esperanza's patient base as well as through community outreach.

"As a CDHC, I was able to act as a patient liaison for the staff on the medical floors to check on patients' dental care history, to let them know about our services and to help them schedule dental appointments," Mr. Hoops said. "I focused on vulnerable populations—pregnant women, diabetes patients and HIV-positive patients—because good oral health in these individuals can make a positive impact on their overall health."

Mr. Hoops entered the CDHC training program with a goal to serve the community with his Spanish language skills.

"I wanted to work in a nonprofit setting. I liked the CDHC program because it gave me an understanding of the social issues in dentistry, including navigating the system for access to care and enhancing patients' oral health literacy. It's important when you act as a translator to make sure patients understand their oral health status, the instructions the dentist or team members is giving them and the importance of having good oral health."

His outreach activities included visiting local health fairs to offer screening and referral services and participating in a local church's one-day mobile dental outreach where he helped connect patients to local dental clinics and providers for long-term, regular dental care. He also worked with the health center's Community Health Promoter program to extend his efforts in the community by training local leaders to help promote oral health among their families and friends.

In his current position as practice administrator, his focus is on handling patients' issues, claims and billing, policies and procedures and staff communications.

"Working in both sides of patient care has given me a sense of how to meet patients' needs as well as how to maintain a sustainable financial model in the practice," he said. "My job is very rewarding. I'm glad I can help bring patients into the clinic and give them the resources they need to be healthy. My training as a CDHC has enabled me to meet the needs of the community and the clinic in a way that utilizes my skills and training."

When Angela Black completed her training in late 2011, she became a CDHC at the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center in Ada, Okla. In that role, she saw patients at the center's 33-chair dental clinic; coordinated oral health prevention services and education; developed a children's screening and sealant program at the Chickasaw Children's Village residential school; and visited 11 senior sites throughout the Nation's 7,650 square-mile territory in south central Oklahoma.

Her skills and experience earned her a promotion to services-at-large outreach coordinator, through which she serves tribal members nationwide, helping them navigate the system for health care services in all disciplines—medical, optical, dental, behavioral—and even how to use Health Spending Accounts and prescription mail order programs. She created a resource book to help patients locate Indian Health Service clinics, federally qualified health centers and Health Resources and Service Administration clinics and facilities in all 50 states.

"CDHC training has opened a lot of options for my career," she said. "Learning to coordinate and navigate access to care has played a big role."

She has worked with the Chickasaw Nation for nine years, and has a dozen years of dental experience serving fellow American Indians in her community.

"This is my dream job," she said. "I loved my previous position as an expanded function dental assistant, but I wanted to reach out to the community more. The CDHC program really prepared me for it. It's rewarding at the end of each day to know that I guided someone and provided hope. Helping people locate access to care is an uplifting and a life-changing experience."

"The CDHC training Angela Black received made her the ideal candidate for her current position as services-at-large outreach coordinator for the Chickasaw Nation Division of Health," said Marsha W. Beatty, assistant professor of research and co-director of the CDHC Pilot Training Program at the University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry. "While she is not directly providing clinical dental services to patients in her new role, she is impacting more people from her tribe in all areas of health with an emphasis on health education and awareness, developing referral networks, facilitating access to care and assisting tribal members with navigating the often complex and cumbersome health system."

For a video update on how the ADA's Community Dental Health Coordinator program is enhancing the oral health of underserved patients in urban, rural and American Indian communities, visit ada.org or YouTube.com. The video shows some of the 34 CDHCs in action in their communities. CDHCs currently work in 26 clinics in seven states.

The ADA House of Delegates established the Workforce Models National Coordinating and Development Committee to create a Community Dental Health Coordinator model training program in 2006. Henry Schein Inc. provided an in-kind donation of portable dental equipment for the program.

For more information on CDHC, visit the website.