today’s patients are different in that they want to have more active roles in their own health care. Therefore, everyone (e.g., health care executives, health professionals, legislators, policy makers, and the public) needs to work together to be more responsive to the demands of this well-informed and engaged society. Strong leaders who are humble, compassionate, and confident are especially needed.
This nation is currently undergoing a paradigm shift from primary care to comprehensive care to interdisciplinary care. The focus needs to be on overall health, not just specific disciplines, in order to provide systemic disease prevention and management and to engage patients in healthier behaviors. In that vein, “health homes” should be considered (instead of medical homes or dental homes). Currently, the oral cavity is separated from the rest of the body in many ways, including in the insurance system. Health homes that are accessible, continuous, comprehensive, and family centered are needed. There is more to dentistry than fixing teeth; the whole person must be seen in the context of his or her family and community.
To address all of these challenges, special consideration is warranted for the recruitment of the next generation of dental students. The Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ASDOH) focuses on training dental students to become community-based educational leaders for populations in need. In that regard, the school officials think differently about the types of students to accept, looking for students who want to make a difference and are from diverse backgrounds. For example, one of the main criteria of admission is the documented demonstration of previous community service. ASDOH also has the highest number of American Indian dental students in any dental school in the United States.
The modular curriculum allows time for further community service. Grant funding secured the building of a special care clinic that has become the largest provider of special care dentistry in the Southwest. The program has other nontraditional elements. For example, in lieu of a permanent science faculty, renowned educators from around the country come to teach in 1-week modules. There are also a lot of clinics, and in their fourth year, students spend half of their time outside the school including 4 weeks working in sites across the country such as community health settings and Indian Health Service clinics. One-third of the first graduating class and about one-fourth of the second class went to work in community health centers. Finally, every student graduates with a certificate in public health, which is a requirement for graduation. Students can take additional courses online to receive a full master’s of public health (MPH) degree. About one-third of the class graduating in 2010 will receive an MPH degree.