Thanks to a $2 million gift from the Delta Dental Foundation, the University of Michigan School of Dentistry (U-M SOD) will create a unique clinic named the Delta Dental of Michigan Integrated Special Care Clinic. At this clinic, patients with special needs will receive dental and health care services in the same facility from providers representing multiple disciplines.
This special clinic will improve health care access and convenience for patients with developmental disabilities, cognitive impairments, complex medical problems, significant medical limitations, veterans with PTSD and the vulnerable elderly. In addition, U-M SOD dental, dental hygiene and graduate students will learn how to assess and manage the needs of these patients.
The clinic’s unique delivery model is designed so dental students and faculty, as well as colleagues from other U-M health science schools and colleges, will provide care together. This interdisciplinary approach—believed to be the first of its kind in Michigan—will allow clinicians to more effectively serve this special patient population with the goals of enhancing access to, and improving the quality of, care.
“Appointments in our comprehensive care clinics may require two or three hours, something that can be difficult for patients with special needs,” says Stephen Stefanac, D.D.S., M.S., U-M SOD Senior Associate Dean and Clinical Professor of Dentistry. “Patients in our new clinic will be assigned to a faculty member who will expedite care with the help of an interprofessional team representing dentistry, nursing, pharmacy and social work. Staff will be available who are experienced working with caregivers and patients with special needs. Quality care delivered with sensitivity and compassion is our primary goal.”
Laurie McCauley, D.D.S., M.S., Ph.D., Dean of U-M SOD, thanked the Delta Dental Foundation for its generous gift.
“We are very grateful to Delta Dental Foundation,” says Dr. McCauley. “This gift will help us provide services to a group of patients whose access to oral health care is limited. Equally important,” she explains, “is the training our dental, dental hygiene and graduate students will receive here at the University of Michigan—they will be even better prepared to treat this group of patients in a private practice environment or in public health facilities after they graduate.”
The new clinic will be built in existing space at the U-M SOD. It will have a cluster of treatment rooms of sufficient size to accommodate patients in wheelchairs, caregivers and healthcare professionals. There will also be two fully enclosed “quiet rooms.” The design phase for the new clinic is already underway.
Carol Anne Murdoch-Kinch, D.D.S., Ph.D., Associate Dean and Clinical Professor of Dentistry, said the gift from Delta Dental Foundation reinforces a new Council on Dental Accreditation standard. All graduates are required to be competent in assessing the treatment needs of patients with special needs and to be able to effectively manage the oral health care of those patients, while collaborating effectively with other members of the health care team.
Dr. Murdoch-Kinch says “interprofessional team-based care” has been shown to improve patient care outcomes, especially for patients with complex needs. “Increasingly, oral health care will become integrated into the overall care of patients, provided by teams of health professionals, including the dental team, nurses, physicians, pharmacists and social workers, with the common goals of providing patient-centered, holistic healthcare.”
The gift represents the largest grant ever awarded by the Delta Dental Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Delta Dental operations in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and North Carolina. This gift counts toward the Victors for Michigan campaign underway at U-M. The School of Dentistry is a part of this important fundraising initiative.