At 81, Fred Glaser takes his health very seriously. He’s fit, he eats well and he knows how important his oral health is.
For the past six years, Fred has been coming to the CU School of Dental Medicine (SDM) and is proud that he still has all of his teeth, something he credits to being a patient of the dental school.
“Over the years, I have received great care. And being on a fixed income, the reduced rates make it possible for me to really care for my old teeth,” said Glaser. “Plus, I feel sure that the students and dentists are up on the latest way to care for an old guy like me!”
Fred couldn’t be happier with the care he has received from students at the school. He has even stayed in touch with several of his student dentists after they graduated.
“I have an exceptionally good student right now,” Glaser said. “I hate to see him graduate, but I already have the next student picked out!”
Like Glaser, any patient who comes to the SDM finds comprehensive oral health care. Due to the SDM educational mission, the fees can be up to half of private dental practices. Patients can choose from one of six brand-new clinics that provide a wide range of specialty services, including fillings, crowns, bridges, dentures, implants, root canals, orthodontia and the extraction of wisdom teeth.
Dentists-in-training provide care at the clinics; they are supervised every step of the way by a faculty of licensed dentists from nine recognized specialties overseeing all aspects of a patient’s care.
“We have teams of generalists and specialists in all of our clinics to diagnose and treat patients with complex dental and health care needs,” said Denise Kassebaum, DDS, MS, dean of the School of Dental Medicine.
Last year, the school provided 65,000 direct clinical visits at the Anschutz Medical Campus clinics and provided an additional 20,000 visits in 56 community-based clinics around the state of Colorado. Many of the patients walk away agreeing with Fred Glaser, who keeps coming back for two simple reasons: “I like the treatment, and I like the people.”
Since it was founded in 1977, the SDM has grown into a premier public dental school, with its three-way mission clear: education, research and patient care in equal measure.
Students and faculty from diverse backgrounds speak more than 40 languages, creating a comfortable environment for non-English speaking patients. The school has expanded in recent years to include 80 students per class in the four-year Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) program and 40 students per class in the International Student Program (ISP).
“We are the only dental school in the Rocky Mountain region and serve as a western regional resource for students and patients,” said Kassebaum, “and we’ve increased class size to graduate more providers to take care of Colorado, the region and nation.”
Students at the school find a dual emphasis on basic science and clinical care, with an evidence-based curriculum built on current research. Their educational experiences prepare them not just for the oral health care of today—but also for the health care of the future.
The school’s interprofessional education (IPE) program received the Outstanding Innovation Award by an Academic Dental Institution, as a part of the 2013 American Dental Education Association William J. Gies Awards for Vision, Innovation and Achievement.
“When you consider the variety of dental school curricula, it’s rewarding to receive recognition for our innovative program,” said Kassebaum. “We have created a model that will inform others who are creating interprofessional education on other campuses.”
From their first day on campus, students participate in IPE experiences with other students from the School of Medicine, College of Nursing and Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. The Anschutz Medical Campus was designed and built to create educational spaces on campus that support IPE.
“It was not an afterthought,” said Kassebaum. “It was part of our vision.”
Every day, clinics at the SDM are bustling with students working on dozens of patients, lying in rows of chairs in brightly lit and cheerfully painted clinics. That education they receive enables them to directly impact their patient’s systemic health and their ability to eat, communicate and, ultimately, fit into society.
“Imagine the impact that a dentist can have by changing a person’s smile,” Kassebaum said. “A smile is a universal communicator. What a privilege it is to have patients entrust their most significant means of communication to you.”
The CU Dental students are entering the dental profession at a time when there is need for their services. U.S. News & World Report predicts that the profession will see a 21.1 percent growth up to the year 2020. Dentist ranks number one in its list of “Best Health Care Jobs.”
In addition to the interprofessional curriculum, students find other advantages at the SDM.
- The school’s location on the Anschutz Medical Campus means students can get additional experience at high-quality medical facilities, like University of Colorado Hospital and Children’s Hospital Colorado.
- The school is constantly upgrading and expanding to provide more patient care to unique populations (watch for new clinics for veterans and adolescents) with the latest technologies (a digital dentistry suite will be coming soon).
- The school offers students the longest running community-based service learning program of all United States dental schools. The Advanced Clinical Training & Services Program (ACTS) has been in existence for more than 30 years and is seen as the national model for putting dental students in community programs.
Third-year student Leah Schulz praised the faculty at the school for being accessible and “focusing on our strengths.”
Schulz also praised the ACTS program, which has placed her for two weeks of every month in a town’s community center, where she sees her own patient load under the supervision of a preceptor dentist.“You see a varied population, you get to make all the decisions,” said Schulz. “From your first year, you are learning to make decisions. ACTS reinforces that—and I was prepared to do it.”
Andy Barseghyan came to the ISP from Armenia, because, he said, the school has a reputation for being “student friendly.”
“The faculty treat you like equals,” Barseghyan said. “There is no hierarchy. Other students I know in other programs across the country don’t see that happening.”
Barseghyan, who is preparing to specialize in endodontics, also praised his clinical experiences and the facilities where students learn.
“They’re teaching you real dentistry, not just book dentistry,” he said. “The facility is brand-new. It cannot be better than that!”
Published: July 22, 2013