ADEA CCI Liaison Ledger

Educator Spotlight: Dr. Wilhelm A. Piskorowski

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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 academic career.

"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 body.

"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 Liberia."

View Dr. Piskorowski's presentation on the University of Michigan's Community and Outreach program.

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