Reflections on the Dental Pipeline Program's Efforts Regarding Community-Based Dental Education

A Houston-based dental educator offers her personal reflections on what has been learned and what needs further investigating in any effort to improve the design of programs like Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Pipeline, Profession and Practice: Community-Based Dental Education.

Dental schools need to change how they select and educate dental students in order to be able to improve the general level of oral health. Simply increasing the number of dental students will not change the demographic and geographic makeup of classes and will not reflect ethnic diversity. Instead, well-structured community-based service-learning programs can improve dental education while also serving the public.

The author reviews specific issues related to the students, curriculum, faculty, program management, infrastructure and logistics, and financial impact.

Finally, Grobe-Hood lays out a number of topics for consideration. The Pipeline sites need to be evaluated especially for the impact of the programs on the competence of students in professionalism, ethics, cultural competence and communications skills. Is there a measurable effect on the health of the site communities? What is the best organizational structure for these programs?

While no one knows how the national health care bill will change dentistry, community-based dental education and service programs have a place in health care innovation.