Bulletin of Dental Education

IUSD Student Outreach Clinic Provides Indianapolis Communities With Comprehensive Dental Care

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IUSD Photo 1The Indiana University School of Dentistry Student Outreach Clinic (IUSD-SOC) is an entirely student-run organization that provides free dental care to Indianapolis’s neediest residents. The IUSD-SOC is part of a multifaceted network consisting of several student-run health care programs—including medical, nursing and pharmacy cohorts—that work together to provide comprehensive care to Indianapolis’s east-side community.

The IUSD-SOC started in 2009 as the first entirely student-run dental care provider in the Midwest. The clinic operates by using grant funding combined with volunteer IUSD students who serve as both health care providers and assistants. This model allows the IUSD-SOC to provide free dental care for new and returning individuals who need care. Volunteer IUSD faculty members (usually two per clinic session) are present at all clinic sessions to ensure the proper care of all SOC persons in need of care. A board of 18 elected IUSD students manages all clinic functions and is in charge of operations, promotions, patient affairs, student affairs and education to ensure optimal function of the SOC. 

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Since 2011, the IUSD-SOC has partnered with HealthNet People’s Health and Dental Center, which is the largest federally qualified health center in Indiana. This allows the IUSD-SOC and its volunteers to operate within the People’s Health Center facility located on Indianapolis’s east side. The SOC uses the oral health portion of the facility, along with all of its facilities, to provide free dental care directly in the Indianapolis community with the highest health care needs. IUSD-SOC sets clinic dates on various Saturdays throughout the year (roughly two Saturdays every month) and provides a wide range of dental services such as screenings, education, cleanings, fillings and extractions. Through grants, such as A Community Thrives from the Gannett Co., Inc. and The E. “Bud” Tarrson Dental School Student Community Leadership Award, and donations from other private sources, the IUSD-SOC has been able to provide expanded care to our patients, such as dentures, crowns and root canal therapy. 

Over the past four years, IUSD-SOC has accommodated 3,337 patient visits and provided over $200,000 worth of Medicaid valued dental services (which equates to between $350,000 and $400,000 in private practice value):

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In the 2017 calendar year alone, the IUSD-SOC used over 3,000 hours of volunteer time from 238 student volunteers to conduct 24 full clinic sessions. Over these clinic sessions, the IUSD-SOC treated 140 individuals with over 355 visits, providing the community with dental care treatment valued at $55,910 in Medicare coverage (roughly a $100,000 value in private practice treatment). These services directly contributed to improving the oral health of one of Indiana’s most in-need communities and also enabled IUSD students to gain valuable experience outside school hours. 

Looking to the future, the IUSD-SOC aims to increase the number of individuals seen and expand the treatment options provided. The SOC Partners are constructing a new clinical space that will bring all of the partners under one roof to create the most comprehensive student-led interprofessional clinic space in the United States. Once completed, individuals will receive care from providers in medicine, pharmacy, law, social work, physical therapy, occupational therapy and nursing.

Interested in starting your own free dental clinic? Have questions or want to visit our clinic? Please contact the Chair, Andrew Bartels, IUSD-SOC, at arbartel@iu.edu.

Courtesy of Sam Patterson, D.D.S. candidate, Class of 2021; IUSD Student Outreach Clinic, Research Chair

Publishedon September 12, 2018

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