At its August 2013 meeting, the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) adopted a resolution to grant initial accreditation to A.T. Still University Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-MOSDOH), a new dental school and the second in Missouri. Initial accreditation was the final step needed before the school could welcome its inaugural class and begin classes in October.
The mission of ATSU-MOSDOH is to increase access to oral health care for Missouri’s most vulnerable populations. The number of dentists in the state is declining, while the underserved population and demand for dentists are rising.
Central to the new school’s curriculum is extensive, in-depth clinical training inside community health centers (CHCs), as called for in a 2011 Institute of Medicine report. In Missouri, CHCs care for 420,000 vulnerable residents, or 25% of the total number of low-income and uninsured citizens. Collaboration with CHCs for on-site clinical education is the most effective way to break down the barriers to care faced by Missouri’s underserved populations.
Unlike any other dental school in the Midwest, graduates of ATSU-MOSDOH will earn a Certificate of Public Health, in addition to a D.M.D. degree, which will prepare a workforce uniquely qualified to care for diverse, underserved populations. Partnerships with CHCs are expected to increase retention within the state’s oral health workforce by encouraging graduates to practice public health dentistry.
“We are very pleased with CODA’s decision to grant initial accreditation,” says ATSU President Craig Phelps, D.O. “It means ATSU may begin educating a new generation of oral health care providers to meet the needs of our state and nation. Our ‘hometown’ partnership program with CHCs will allow young women and men from underserved communities the opportunity to receive a degree and return home. Each dentist returning to his or her community will not only provide needed oral health care and public health expertise, but will also provide a valuable, positive economic impact.”
Christopher Halliday, D.D.S., M.P.H., Dean of the new dental school, says “We are grateful to CODA for enabling us to move forward with our mission to educate community-minded oral health care professionals through a groundbreaking, innovative model of dental education.” Dr. Halliday has spent his career caring for the underserved in Alaska, New Mexico and Arizona, and advocating on their behalf, most recently as Assistant Surgeon General of the United States.
Students will not have to wait until they graduate to begin filling the gaps in Missouri’s dental care. During their third and fourth years they will be embedded inside Missouri CHCs, where their clinical education will include treating patients under supervision of faculty dentists. This will allow the centers to reach an additional 11,500 patients each year.
Students will be involved in every aspect of dental care from prevention to rehabilitation. They will work with the full spectrum of underserved patients, including children, adults, geriatric patients, the disabled, the homeless and the uninsured.