Outreach

Serving patients and professionals in Nebraska and the region.

The mission of the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Dentistry is to educate dental health professionals and to improve the health of the citizens of Nebraska and the region through excellence in research, patient care and outreach to underserved populations.

Outreach at the college refers to programs, outside of the curriculum, which allow students, faculty and staff to volunteer to be involved in activities intended to improve the health of Nebraskans. The college feels that, as a state supported institution, it has a purposeful responsibility to be part of the dental safety net for the State of Nebraska, helping to provide information, instruction and oral health care to underserved populations across the state. Several years ago the college made a conscious decision that it was going to focus its outreach programs on providing services to low income populations that had little or no access to oral health care. Consequently the college has focused its outreach programs on delivering care rather than only providing information and placing special emphasis on children.

The college started its Children’s Dental Day program in 2001 and has provided needed services to over 4,500 children from across the state.

Starting in about 2004, the college began using distance learning technologies to begin a dental hygiene satellite program in Gering and built on that experience to develop teledentistry capability. This gives rural practitioners the opportunity to conduct patient consults directly, via two way audio-video, with dental specialists at the college.

Staring about 2003, the college, through the Department of Dental Hygiene, began conducting sealant programs at public schools in the Omaha metro. These programs, which include an examination, cleaning, fluoride treatment and sealants, were offered to public schools which qualified by being at 80% or greater in the free/reduced lunch program and began with a small number of the neediest schools in Omaha. The program has grown to encompass 15 schools in Omaha, 7 schools in Lincoln, 4 sites in the Panhandle, and sees over 2,000 children annually.

The Dental College also recognized that there were many dental needs among the adult population in Lincoln. In 2008, the college began participating in a free triage and referral program called “Clinic With A Heart.” Each week this free clinic, located in downtown Lincoln, sees about 15-20 patients who present with a variety of oral health problems including many that are complex and represent dental emergencies. In response to this need, the college began a SHARING Clinic, with referrals primarily from CWAH and which is held at the college quarterly in the evening. Up to 100 patients are seen at each SHARING Clinic.

Throughout the various outreach programs, the college has been trying to include elements of Interprofessional Education (IPE). IPE is a new buzz-word in professional education and focuses on an educational process by which students from two or more different professions get together to learn about, from and with each other to enable collaboration and improve health outcomes. For the past couple of years the college has been working to integrate other health professions into the Dental Day and SHARING Clinic activities. This has principally involved the Lincoln Division of the College of Nursing along with students from the College of Medicine in Omaha. These students have interacted with our dental and dental hygiene students and residents in screening patients and assisting chair-side as appropriate. Our feeling is that the more students from different health care professionals can learn and communicate with each other, the better they will be about seeking collaboration from other health professionals in the future.