Pipeline, Profession & Practice: Community-Based Dental Education

An RWJF National Program

Dates of Program: July 2001 to July 2010

Field of Work: Changing dental education through expanding community-based education and recruiting underrepresented minority and low-income students into dentistry.

Problem Synopsis: The need for oral health care services among minority, low-income, medically disabled, and other disadvantaged populations is great. Dental schools can and should contribute to the solution through their educational and patient care programs.

Synopsis of the Work: The national program Pipeline, Profession & Practice: Community-Based Dental Education (more commonly known as the Dental Pipeline Program) helped dental schools increase access to dental care for underserved populations through expanded community-based education and recruitment of underrepresented minority and low-income students.

In Round 1, the Dental Pipeline Program made grants to 11 dental schools (with another four supported by the California Endowment) to expand community-based clinical education programs, revise curricula to support these programs, and increase recruitment and retention of underrepresented minority and low-income students.

In Round 2, the program made grants to eight additional schools: four focused on recruitment of underrepresented minority or low-income students and four focused on community-based education. The program also contracted with national organizations to help institutionalize Dental Pipeline Program initiatives.

Key Results

  • Round 1:

    • All 15 participating dental schools increased the length of time that senior students spent in community-based dental rotations from an average of 10 days at the beginning of the program (2002–03) to an average of 52 days in 2006–07.
    • All participating dental schools made changes to their curricula to prepare students for their community-based dental rotations.
    • Applications from and enrollment of underrepresented minority students at participating dental schools increased between 2002–03 and 2006–07, excluding the historically Black dental schools.
  • Round 2:

    • The Commission on Dental Accreditation approved revised pre-doctoral standards that require diversity in students, faculty, and staff; cultural competence in treating diverse patients; and clinical experiences in community-based settings.
    • In a study conducted by program staff, schools with extensive (i.e., 50 or more days per senior year) community-based education programs had substantially lower per senior student clinic losses than did schools with limited (i.e., 10 or fewer days) programs. "It is a big gain financially for dental schools to go into the community," concluded national program Co-Director Howard L. Bailit, DDS, PhD.