Academia is a second career for Dr. Wilhelm A. Piskorowski, Assistant
Professor of Dentistry and Director of the highly respected
Community and Outreach Programs at the University of Michigan (UM).
Although he spent 27 years in private practice, the five short
months in 2005 that he spent working part-time in a community
dental clinic seem to have played a formative role in shaping his
"It amazed me what was in
my own backyard that I hadn't seen in my suburban practice," he
recalls. "Now my students are witnessing many of the same things.We
have them conduct emergency exams and learn how to triage, take
histories, and provide palliative care. They are coming up with
solutions for people who are truly suffering."
Since becoming Director
of Community and Outreach Programs in 2006, Dr. Piskorowski has
expanded community-based education (CBE) at UM in several
directions. Fourth-year students used to spend three weeks in
community settings. Now they spend eight, and in future years CBE
will become a four-year thread for students who opt for a community
track. What's more, CBE is no longer confined to a single federally
qualified health center (FQHC). Students can work in 22 different
settings, including a few outside the state or overseas.
Perhaps most importantly
from an institutional perspective, Dr. Piskorowski has developed
several new models of CBE, all of which are financially
self-sustaining. When he came on board, UM's CBE program relied on
a grant that was about to expire. Dr. Piskorowski wanted to replace
it with more predictable and diversified sources of financial
support. Working with the program's affiliated FQHC, he developed a
revenue-sharing contract that has since been adopted by all of UM's
CBE partners-a mix of FQHCs, community dental clinics, Indian
Health Service providers, and private practices.
Dr. Piskorowski is quick
to acknowledge his predecessors and those who are currently
supporting his efforts."I owe a lot to those who were here before
me," he insists. "Dr. Jed Jacobson, who expanded the program 10
years ago, had strong support from his dean, Dr. William Kotowicz.
Jed's successor, Dr. Tom Veryser, sparked my interest in outreach
when I ran my own practice. That support continues today from our
dean, Dr. Peter Polverini, and Dr. Stephen Stefanac, our Associate
Dean for Patient Services."
During the past five
years, the number of treatments provided by UM dental students and
the number of patients they serve has tripled. What is more, a
cultural change appears to be taking root among the student
"We are opening eyes,"
says Dr. Piskorowski. "Last year, 86% of students ranked CBE as
their top dental school experience, and the number of students
choosing community or public health upon graduation has tripled.
There were three in 1999 and 2000. Now we have an average of more
than 10, and they're taking on important challenges. One of last
year's graduates is on a mission to create a dental school in
View Dr. Piskorowski's
presentation on the University of Michigan's Community and Outreach