Western University of Health Sciences’ College of Dental Medicine (CDM) received a $25,000 donation from DentaQuest to support third- and fourth-year students completing externships focused on care for vulnerable populations.
One of the nation’s largest and most experienced Medicaid dental benefits administrators, DentaQuest focuses on improving oral health outcomes for more than 33 million Americans with a nationwide network of providers in all 50 states. This investment in the Western University of Health Sciences’ dental school aligns directly with DentaQuest’s mission to improve the oral health of all.
“We are incredibly appreciative of the DentaQuest assistance for our students,” said WesternU College of Dental Medicine Dean Steven Friedrichsen, DDS. “It increases our program’s impact by supporting the students as they provide oral health care while learning first-hand about the challenges and opportunities surrounding equitable access to critically important health care services.”
“Both DentaQuest and WesternU aim to create a more equitable health system and break down barriers to affordable, accessible, quality dental care,” said Steve Pollock, president and CEO of DentaQuest. “By investing in organizations that promote and implement programs advancing diversity, equity and inclusion, like these externships, we’re advancing grassroots efforts to grow and educate culturally competent providers.”
Each participating dental student completes two seven-week externships – one in their third year and one in their fourth year of school. The donation will directly support lodging and transportation during the program for students facing financial hardships, which can prevent students from gaining required professional experience.
“As part of the program, these students provide services to those with limited access to oral health care, such as patients in rural areas, or to specific vulnerable populations, such as those with special needs or veterans,” said CDM Professor and Associate Dean for Community Partnerships and Access to Care Marisa Watanabe, DDS, MS. All CDM externship sites are either Federally Qualified Health Centers, nonprofit community clinics, or Indian Health Service sites, geared to serve the most vulnerable.
CDM collaborated with DentaQuest from 2012-17, and this donation brings the two organizations back together to support alternative career pathways that close achievement gaps and address common barriers to entry and success in dentistry.
“CDM and DentaQuest share similar values and missions,” Watanabe said. “We are looking at ways to expand the network and to collaborate collectively toward our similar goal of building health equity for the population.”
“This collaboration with DentaQuest will help CDM students as well as patients,” CDM Assistant Professor and Assistant Dean for Community Patient Care Krystle Rapisura, DMD ’13, MS said. “It is very validating for our work, which we pour our hearts into, to be recognized as something valuable.”
CDM wants to inspire students to continue community service wherever they practice after graduation, according to Watanabe. For instance, if a student decides to enter private practice, CDM encourages them to set aside a recurring day for pro bono work or to volunteer at a clinic. “We want to instill these types of values post-graduation, not just during dental school,” she said.