Under the leadership of Dr. Aljernon J. Bolden as Principal Investigator (PI), the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Denistry recently developed and piloted an 18-month Dental School Outreach Program (DSOP) community partnership benefiting the health and well-being of vulnerable children at the El Valor social service agency and St. Malachy Elementary School.
Dr. Bolden is Associate Professor of Preventive and Public Health Sciences for the Department of Pediatric Denistry. El Valor is a non-profit organization in Chicago’s Pilsen community dedicated to helping children. St. Malachy is located on Chicago’s West Side.
Funding originated with the Kellogg Foundation and came through the American Dental Education Association (ADEA), which invited only three schools – the Howard University College of Dentistry, the University of Michigan School of Denistry, and the UIC College of Denistry – to apply “because of their track record of services to the underserved,” Dr. Bolden said. Each school received $100,000.
For El Valor infants and toddlers, students from the College performed infant oral assessment, fluoride varnish applications, and restorative and preventive services. A “dental home” was established for the children of the El Valor Early Headstart Program whereby oral health services were provided to El Valor infants by d-3s in the College’s clinical facilities. Each D-3 “adopted” a child and family.
Dental students were trained in mentoring and career counseling and provided those services to sixth, seventh-and eighth-grade students from St. Malachy. The College students introduced St. Malacy students to online resources concerning careers, emphasizing the ADEA “Exploring Health Careers” website, and provided them with general career counseling. They also mentored St. Malachy students concerning the youngsters’ science fair projects.
The goal was to encourage St. Malachy students to pursue healthcare careers and to improve the College students’ capacity to serve vulnerable populations as caregivers and role models.
Students in the College’s Hispanic Student Dental Association (HSDA) and the predominantly African American Student National Dental Association (SNDA) were the main point-persons for the DSOP, with the HSDA concentrating on El Valor and the NSDA concentrating on St. Malachy.
Dr. Bolden was chosen as PI because, he said, “my passion is designing and implementing community-based programs for vulnerable populations. You want somebody who has been involved in these things, and I have done that for both our predoc and graduate students, and I also have worked with philanthropic organizations such as Kellogg and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation before.
“We’re in the business of preparing high-quality healthcare providers who understand the issues of diversity and the needs of the community, and who, especially in a down economy, who can utilize resources efficiently,” Dr. Boldrn said. “The DSOP fit perfectly with that mission.”
El Valor and St. Malachy were natural partners for the College, Dr. Bolden said, because they already had participated in Give Kids a Smile Day, Healthy Smiles Week, and other programs at the College.
“SNDA put the St. Malachy into the Impressions Program, a national program of the National Dental Association’s SNDA to expose youngsters from underserved communities about the dental profession,” Dr. Bolden explained.
The work with El Valor youngsters was “a family model approach,” Dr. Bolden continued. “We were doing risks assessment of caries in the child, and would also learn if other children in the family were high-risk.”
The College was successful in meeting its goals, and even expanded on them.
“Even though the focus was on clinical services for El Valor youngsters, the HSDA said they would like to mentor the older El Valor youngsters as well,” Dr. Bolden explained. “So now HSDA members are offering career counseling to El Valor seventh and eighth graders. In addition, SNDA has ‘adopted’ St. Malachy’s and will continue to career counseling for its students.”
Dr. Caswell Evans, Associate Dean for prevention and Public Health Sciences, coordinated the project with ADEA. Dr. Darryl pendleton, Associate Dean for Student and Diversity Affairs, worked on student mentoring and coordinated with student organizations and the UIC Urban Health Program. Dr. Indru Punwani, Head, pediatric Dentistry, coordinated development of aÂ “dental home” at the College for El Valor.
Dr. Christine Hryhorczuk, Director of Site Asssessment for ExtramuralÂ Education, was responsible for community-based clinical services outreach coordination. Dr. Sahar Alrayyes, Predoctoral Clinic Director, Pediatric Dentistry, was the point of contact for student clinical services related to the DSOP. Dr. Anne Koerber, Director of Behavioral Science, consulted on the project. Dr. Christine Wu, Director ofÂ Cariology, Pediatric Dentistry, helped determine which children were high-risk.
The project may have conculded, but not the College’s commitment. “Dr. Pendleton and I are trying toÂ tie in some of the activities with other grants or programs, so we can continue them,” Dr. Bolden concluded.