ADEA Issue Watch: Impact of Oral Health Training Programs Under Title VII of the Public Health Service Act
On July 19, the American Dental Education Association, in cooperation with Rep. Mike Simpson, D.M.D., (R-ID), hosted a briefing for congressional staff titled “Rural Communities and the Opioid Crisis: Examining the Impact of Funding for Dental Education and Training Programs.” Two dental school faculty members and three residents spoke about the importance of funding for oral health education and training under Title VII of the Public Health Service Act (PHSA). These funds help preserve components of our nationwide dental safety net and promote access to and delivery of dental care.
Section 748 of Title VII of the PHSA provides funding for developing and promoting the health professions workforce. Among the programs funded is the faculty loan repayment program, administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which helps encourage dental school graduates to pursue academic careers.
Title VII grant funds also assist dental schools and dental hygiene programs with educating students from disadvantaged backgrounds or underrepresented populations. Title VII includes pediatric and general dentistry residencies that train residents from underserved communities.
Jane Walsh, RDH, J.D., Program Director and Associate Professor, Comprehensive Dentistry and Biomaterials—Dental Hygiene, Louisiana State University Health New Orleans School of Dentistry (LSUSD), gave examples of two LSUSD students who benefited from a Rural Scholars program funded through HRSA grants under Title VII. These students committed to practicing in their home communities, which are designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) lacking in access to dental care.
M. Nathalia Garcia, D.D.S., M.S., Section Head of Periodontics, Department of Applied Dental Medicine, Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine, described how Title VII helps combat the opioid crisis. Title VII funds help by promoting curricular changes to reduce and replace opioids for pain management and educating students and practitioners to recognize the signs and symptoms of addiction and ensure safe prescribing practices. Dental school clinics and outreach facilities are an integral part of a dental health safety net that serve populations particularly vulnerable to opioid addiction.
Three dental residents from Howard University College of Dentistry (HUCD)—Jennifer Collins, D.D.S., originally from Memphis; Katrina Foster, D.D.S., originally from Chicago; and Adrienne L. Perry, D.D.S., originally from Atlanta—shared their stories about what led them to dentistry and how Title VII programs made it possible. Dr. Foster, for example, is an alumna of the Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP), a pipeline program funded through Title VII. She pursued a career in dentistry as a result of her experiences as an undergraduate participant in the program. Upon graduation from dental school, she practiced in her hometown of Chicago and is now in an orthodontics residency at HUCD because of the lack of orthodontists who accept Medicaid. She intends to return to practice in an underserved community after her residency.
These are a few real-life examples of how federal support for programs that educate and train dental professionals is making a positive impact on the oral health of the nation.