Bulletin of Dental Education

Around the Dental Education Community - November 2012

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Students and Faculty Travel to Jamaica for Annual Outreach Trip

More than 40 dental student and faculty volunteers from the University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry traveled to Jamaica to participate in an annual humanitarian dentistry trip. During the school's fall break, the group spent a week in the Jamaican town of Ocho Rios where they provided free dental care and education at local clinics and schools.

Over the course of the visit, hundreds of adults and children from the area received oral health education and care. Screenings, restorative treatments, and extractions were common procedures at four different clinic sites. The volunteers also visited local schools to give young students instruction on proper oral hygiene.

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“We were able to help a lot of people who badly needed dental care during our trip," says Clint Taura, a member of the D.D.S. Class of 2013 and a trip participant.

Students and faculty brought their own dental instruments and educational tools to use throughout the week. Henry Schein also contributed to the success of the trip with a generous donation of supplies. The Jamaica trip was coordinated with the help of Great Shape! Inc., a Jamaican nonprofit focused on humanitarian dentistry and vision care, as well as literacy empowerment.


Rock Doc: Dentist Remains a Player on Stage

Back in mid-90s, John Whittemore was faced with a tough decision about his professional future. A third-year student at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Dentistry, he was also one of Memphis' hottest young guitarists. He'd been nominated for a local Grammy Premier Player award and was being enticed with an offer to join a major label band in Los Angeles.

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"In that moment, I suppose my life could've tipped in a totally different direction," says Dr. Whittemore. He would ultimately choose dentistry, but he would not turn his back on music entirely.

"I admire John for being able to do both things, and do both things so well," says Scott Bomar, leader of noted R&B band the Bo-Keys, Memphis Grammy chapter trustee, and a former Dr. Whittemore band mate. "He's one of those guys whose brain and his hands are wired in a very special way."  

Dr. Whittemore grew up in Mobile, Alabama. He came to Memphis in 1987 to attend Rhodes College where he collaborated with local art-rock outfit Neighborhood Texture Jam. Inspired by a fellow musician friend who'd enrolled in medical school, he decided to give dentistry a shot. The parallels between playing guitar and working on teeth struck the proverbial chord. "Playing guitar or working as a dentist, you've got to deal with people and use your hands in precise little ways," he says. "So it was a perfect thing for me."

While going through the second year of dental school, Whittemore had his crossroads moment and considered quitting school to pursue music professionally. "I thought about it, but I'm not much of a quitter," says Dr. Whittemore. "So I really plugged back into school and dentistry."  

After graduating in 1997, Dr. Whittemore went to work for Mickey Bernstein. D.D.S. of the Germantown Dental Group. Five years later, he became a partner in the practice, and now is one of its two owners.

As he established himself in the dental world, Dr. Whittemore continued to make meaningful music. He helped launch garage rock legend Jack Yarber's post-Oblivians band The Tearjerkers. He also formed the blues-rock band Delta Queens and performed with Papa Top's West Coast Turnaround, among others. All the while, he makes time to study dental manuals and journals. "I take dentistry freakishly seriously," says Dr. Whittemore. "I care tremendously about what I do and about doing it well."

Dr. Whittemore has more projects in the offing. There are limits, of course, to his musical aspirations. Given his professional obligations Whittemore can't tour and has often been forced to cede his place in various bands to players who can.

"That's the sad part of a serious day job," says Dr. Whittemore. "But, ultimately, I'm a really lucky person in that I have two great passions in teeth and music, and I've been able to make it all work."


New York University College of Dentistry, Foster Care Agency Partner to Improve Children’s Health

The New York University College of Dentistry (NYUCD) and Graham Windham, a local NYC-based foster care agency, have partnered to provide regular dental care to more than 650 children since spring of 2011. The success of the program, Partners Against Caries (PAC), both for the participating foster children and the dental school students, may serve as a model for other dental schools' outreach programs. PAC's successes were outlined in an oral as well as a poster session at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans, October 20-23, 2012.

"The program has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for both the children and families in foster care, as well as for the NYUCD dental students," says study author Elizabeth A. Best, MPH, Department of Pediatric Dentistry. "The pediatric patients enjoy receiving care from the dental students, who are very engaged with the children."

For the dental students, the experience has been eye-opening. "Most of the dental students have little knowledge of the foster care system," comments Ms. Best. "At NYUCD, we are now graduating dental students who have worked with this population, and are aware of their unique health care needs," she said.

Poor dental and oral health can affect children's growth, school performance and attendance, and can contribute to physical and mental health problems. According to Healthy Foster Care America, approximately 35% of children and teens enter foster care with significant dental and oral health problems.

"Dental health has been described as a "window" to a child's well-being," says Mitchell Rubin, MD, FAAP, Medical Director, Graham Windham. "We believe that an optimal dental state is a necessary ingredient for the interrelated spectrum of medical, mental and social health," Dr. Rubin says.

Low-income children, especially those in foster care, are less likely to receive regular dental care, and, as a result, face a greater risk of tooth decay. These children, as they grow older, are susceptible to a myriad of oral health related problems – from heart disease, diabetes, and oral cancer, to low self-esteem and depression.

The abstract presented at the AAP conference, "An Approach to Dental Healthcare in an Inner-City Foster Care Population: The Partners Against Caries (PAC) Program," describes the partnership, which shifted dental services for these children from multiple providers to a single "dental home" in spring 2011. The goal was to improve care quality and continuity for the participating foster children, and to provide a unique learning experience for dental students.


University of California, San Francisco, Announces Survey of Underrepresented Minority Dentists


The University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry and Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center is excited to announce the roll out of a Survey of Underrepresented Minority Dentists in the United States. This is the first ever nation-wide survey of African-American, Hispanic/Latino and American Indian/Alaskan-Native dentists. This study hopes to understand the significant contributions of minority providers to oral health care, as well as understand what factors drive minority dentists to success and understand practice patterns. The survey is a chance for you to voice your opinion about critical issues facing minority providers today. If you receive the survey in the mail we thank you in advance for your participation. Should you have any questions about the study, please call Alexis Cooke, MPH at 1-877-231-0863, or Beth Mertz, PhD, Principal Investigator, by phone at (415) 502-5759.




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