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American Dental Association and A.T. Still University’s Arizona School of Dentistry And Oral Health Announce New Community Dental Health Coordinator Program

March 18, 2011

Contact Information:
Telephone: 312.440.2806
Email: (Journalists) or Contact ADA (All Others)

Washington, D.C.—The American Dental Association (ADA) and A.T. Still University's Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health (ATSU-ASDOH) announced today the launch of the Community Dental Health Coordinator (CDHC) education and training program based at ATSU's Mesa, Ariz., campus. The program will provide training for community health workers with emphasis on oral health education, prevention, and helping patients who may normally face barriers to care, receive dental care.

ATSU-ASDOH is one of four university-affiliated dental schools providing the CDHC program, which is jointly sponsored by the ADA the other universities offering programs in conjunction with their dental schools include Philadelphia's Temple University, the University of Oklahoma and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). In their initial phase of training in Arizona, students will complete 12 months of online coursework administered by Rio Salado College in Tempe, Ariz. Upon successfully completing the didactic portion of their training, 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; and students currently at the UCLA School of Dentistry are training to work in American Indian communities. The UCLA CDHC program will end with the graduation of its second class of students in fall 2011. The final group of students (Cohort 3) training to work in American Indian communities will begin and complete their training in the ASDOH program.

"We're excited to open this final phase of the CDHC pilot project at the Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health," said ADA President Raymond F. Gist, D.D.S. "It will leverage the University's many ties to the American Indian community and its proximity to both Rio Salado College and the southwestern tribal communities in which some CDHCs will work."

ATSU-ASDOH has the largest contingency of tribally enrolled American Indian dental students of any dental school in the nation, with a 100 percent graduation rate for Native students. All of ATSU-ASDOH's Native graduates practice in Native communities.

"We're delighted to join this pilot project," said ATSU-ASDOH Dean Jack Dillenberg, D.D.S., M.P.H. "The CDHC model is a natural fit with our mission and goals, a community-based education model to create caring community leaders who help those in need."

Dr. Gist called the presence of George Blue Spruce, D.D.S., M.P.H., ATSU-ASDOH's assistant dean for American Indian Affairs, and the nation's first American Indian dentist, "an incalculable asset." Dr. Blue Spruce is a former U.S. assistant surgeon general and director of the Indian Health Service's Phoenix Area Office. "George Blue Spruce is a pioneer, a leader, and an inspiration to all of us," said Dr. Gist.

The three-year CDHC pilot project, funded by the ADA with assistance from Henry Schein, Inc., will run through 2012, at which point three cohorts (classes) of students will have graduated and begun working in underserved communities.

"A key element of this project is cultural competence," 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 the host population. Most CDHCs won't face these barriers, because they are being recruited from the same communities in which they serve. In addition to helping people improve their own oral health, they are serving as role models. The CDHC program is also creating jobs in the target communities."

About the ADA

The not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing 162,000 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 For more information on oral health, including prevention, care and treatment of dental disease, visit the ADA's consumer website