UR Medicine’s Eastman Institute for Oral Health has been awarded a $3.5 million grant for an innovative educational initiative--a major step in reducing the health disparities among people with special needs.
Funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the five-year program will train more than 100 pediatric and general dentists, plus numerous hygienists, dental assistants and other staff in treating the unmet oral health needs of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and other conditions they’ve contracted since childhood, such as Type I diabetes, congenital heart defects, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy—across their lifespan.
Advances in medicine have led to increases in life expectancy for patients with childhood congenital or acquired diseases. The current system is unequipped to provide high quality dental care for this growing population of patients as they enter adulthood.
Lack of access is the biggest barrier for this patient population to achieve oral health in underserved communities, primarily because 75 percent of dentists do not treat patients with Medicaid, nor do they have adequate training or facilities. As a result, the number of Dental Health Professionals Shortage Areas has increased from 1,895 in 2001 to 4,900 in 2014.
Led by EIOH Pediatric Dentistry Interim Chair Sean McLaren, D.D.S., the new program provides four different options for post-doctoral training. Similar to medical residents who can specialize in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, pediatric and advanced general dentistry residents can now–for the first time--achieve proficiency in treating patients with special health care needs from birth through advanced age.
The training will take place at UR Medicine’s new Center for Adults with Special Health Care Needs and Eastman Institute for Oral Health, beginning in July 2016. Hans Malmstrom, D.D.S., chair, EIOH’s Advanced Education in General Dentistry and Yan-Fang Ren, D.D.S., Ph.D., M.P.H., EIOH professor and clinical chief of Eastman Dental’s urgent care clinic will also have integral roles in this new training program.
“The dental residents will gain valuable exposure to adult medically complex patients while interacting with the medical faculty and residents throughout the program,” said Dr. McLaren. “This will provide the physicians and dentists valuable collaboration, which will in turn, greatly enhance patient care.”
Obtaining this grant is another step EIOH has taken to further reduce the health disparities experienced by individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Golisano Foundation and EIOH formed a taskforce of experts in 2012 to identify gaps and barriers that explain why dental care is the number one unmet healthcare need. Among the many recommendations were to increase the number of providers and their skills when treating patients with special needs. Since then the Golisano Foundation and EIOH have worked together to reach these goals through a variety of measures.
“Eastman Institute for Oral Health is committed to helping patients with special needs through direct treatment, wide-ranging support, and by educating current and future providers,” said EIOH Director Eli Eliav, D.M.D., Ph.D.
“We are very pleased that Eastman Institute is providing dental care for people with intellectual disabilities in their communities,” said Ann Costello, director, Golisano Foundation. “From teaching dental residents and specialists how to care for people with disabilities to including patients with special needs in private dental offices and community health centers - we hope these innovative practices can be replicated around the U.S. and world.”
Since 2012, Tom Golisano and the Golisano Foundation have committed more than $37 million to the Special Olympics to launch and expand Healthy Communities, issuing a call to action to community stakeholders around the world to help close the healthcare gap experienced by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Over the years, EIOH specialists have trained dentists through dental screenings at Special Olympics events, helped numerous athletes obtain needed dental care, and expanded Spread the Word to End the Word campaigns.
In addition, EIOH is building a new SMILEmobile outfitted with a wheelchair mount capable of traveling to group homes or community meeting places to maximize access for patients.