Tips From Current D.D.S. and Dental Hygiene Students

Students for Interprofessional Practice and Education

Posted by on April 27, 2023

Many dental schools across the United States are integrating interprofessional education (IPE) into their curriculum. The incorporation of IPE leads to interprofessional practice which promotes comprehensive care across health care professions, aiming to strengthen the health care system and reduce disparities and costs. As research continues to provide evidence linking the association of oral and systemic health, the shift toward IPE in dental schools is inevitable. 

For this reason, Students for Interprofessional Practice and Education (SIPE), a student-led organization at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine (TUSDM), was created with a vision of fostering and supporting opportunities for interprofessional collaboration between dentistry and other health professions.

As noted by Karin Arsenault, D.M.D., M.P.H., a faculty mentor for SIPE, “IPE is essential to advancing patient-centered outcomes, it prepares students to work in a collaborative environment, understand the scope of practice of other health care professionals and helps promote effective quality care to optimize oral health and general health outcomes.” 

SIPE recently started a formal study group that meets every other month. It is focused on sleep and airway health (not limited to sleep apnea), and facilitated by a prominent dental sleep specialist at TUSDM, Leopoldo Correa, B.D.S., M.S. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep apnea affects as much as 20% of the population and dentists play an important role in the screening and management of this condition. The study group meetings are focused on sleep and airway health, especially crucial topics as the rising prevalence of sleep-related breathing disorders in the United States threatens public health. 

Through SIPE, dental students learn from other health care students and share with them the importance of oral health’s relationship with general overall health. During Fall 2022, the group held a luncheon with students from the Tufts University School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program. Attendees discussed ways primary care providers and dentists can work together to eliminate barriers to health care, prevent diseases and promote infrastructures that enable interdisciplinary communication. 

“SIPE is an amazing opportunity to learn about different disciplines and the ways in which dentistry is important to overall health,” SIPE President, Esther Yi, Class of 2025, said. “Through this club, we can understand and connect with other health fields in unique ways.” 

In the spring of 2021, SIPE had a focus on the dentists’ role in relieving the burden of the opioid epidemic. In the past, SIPE hosted discussions with pharmacists, veterinarians and physicians, as well as nonhealth care personnel, such as scientists and anthropologists. 

As future health care leaders, we have a duty to advocate for the betterment of our health care system. Organizing with fellow health care students is one avenue we can use to provide the best care for our patients and communities.

“Improving oral health and access to care particularly for underserved and vulnerable populations presents opportunities and challenges for academic dental institutions, programs and faculty,” said Maria Dolce, Ph.D., RN, CE, the Director of IPE at TUSDM and a faculty mentor for SIPE. “Together, we are called to prepare the dentist of the future—dental graduates with the requisite competencies to collaborate with other health care professionals in the delivery of person-centered care. Interprofessional education is a vehicle to achieve this vision.”

About :

Sara Kashan and Lena Syed headshots

Lena Syed (right)
Third-year dental student
Vice President of SIPE

Ms. Syed is currently a third-year dental student at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and serves as the Vice President for Students for Interprofessional Practice and Education. She graduated from Simmons University in 2020 with a B.A. in economics and B.S. in nutrition and dietetics. 

Sara Kashani (left)
Third-year dental student
Secretary of SIPE

Ms. Kashani is a third-year dental student at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine (TUSDM). She serves as the Interprofessional Education Liaison for ADEA. She’s also the Secretory for Students for Interprofessional Practice and Education at TUSDM. She graduated from University of California, Los Angeles in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in behavioral biology.