Can a $1.5 million, five-year award to place students in
community sites and recruit more minority students transform a
dental education program? At The Ohio
State University (OSU), the answer appears to be "Yes."
When OSU received one of ten Dental Pipeline grants from the
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 2002, its College of Dentistry
was sending students into the community for about 12 days a year.
By 2007, OSU had identified enough community partners to allow its
fourth-year students to spend 60 days each in community settings.
Today, about 100 students visit 21 extramural sites each year as
part of the OHIO Project. They treat geriatric patients and
veterans and, thanks to a mobile clinic, travel to schools to care
for uninsured and underinsured children.
Last year, students spent a full month in an underserved area of
Ohio's Licking County, where more than half the students receive
free or reduced-price lunches. Unlike typical mobile clinics, this
one offers more than preventive care. The dental students develop
treatment plans under the supervision of a pediatric dentist and
stay long enough to complete the necessary treatment.
"It's one thing to tell students in class that access to dental
care is the number-one unmet health need in Ohio," says Dr. Canise
Y. Bean, Director of Community Education and Associate Professor at
OSU College of Dentistry, "but it's so much more real to them after
they have spent time in Licking County. They realize that if each
dentist does his or her part, eventually lack of access will no
longer be a problem for Ohio residents."
To accommodate the increase in community-based education (CBE),
OSU moved all its fourth-year didactic courses to Fridays and made
CBE a course in itself. Students concentrate on basic preventive
and restorative procedures, extractions, and some endodontics.
Like many dental schools, OSU requires students to complete a
specified number of procedures in order to graduate. Up to 30
restorations and root canal therapy completed from start to finish
in CBE settings may be counted toward these graduation
"It works, but I think we could offer the students more," argues
Dr. Bean. "We don't want them to feel that CBE is taking them away
from the college clinics as they attempt to fulfill the
Not everyone on the faculty agrees. Some would prefer that
campus faculty supervise most procedures, especially when it comes
to dentures and partials, but a confluence of factors may
ultimately shift the balance in favor of greater reliance on CBE to
build and demonstrate student competency. In fall 2012, OSU will
move from a quarter system to a semester system, creating an
impetus for Dr. Bean and her colleagues to consider revising
graduation requirements and the curriculum in general. The college
must also address the aging of its 50 plus-year-old physical
structure. As Dr. Bean sees it, CBE may soon play an important role
in providing an alternative venue for educating OSU students while
facilities are replaced or renovated.
Her conclusion? "It's a wonderful time for change."