The Pomona Unified School District and Western University of Health Sciences’ College of Dental Medicine celebrated the opening of a new school-based oral health center at Palomares Academy of Health Sciences in Pomona, California Friday, Jan. 9, 2015.

The center, at 2211 N. Orange Grove Ave., will provide oral health services – including dental exams, cleanings, fluoride treatments and sealants – to uninsured and underserved children ages 17 and younger from throughout the school district. This is the fourth school-based dental clinic in PUSD, along with the Mendoza Center, the Village@Indian Hill and Alcott Elementary School.

PUSD Superintendent Richard Martinez said WesternU President Philip Pumerantz is a visionary who knows that education takes place beyond the walls of a classroom.

"He had envisioned making sure that the education of someone working toward a medical degree was going to have an opportunity to practice in the field early on, the field being Pomona Unified in the communities of Pomona and Diamond Bar," Martinez said. "We’ve seen that happen. We’ve seen that expand from one year to the next."

Martinez said he recently visited Madison Elementary and saw WesternU students arriving to tutor the students there.

"They’re going beyond the medical work. They’re being great role models and great examples for our students," he said.

The new oral health center will provide valuable services to the community and set an example for Palomares students, Martinez said.

"I’m excited that we’re offering this service not only to show these students what’s possible, but to really have hands-on support for a community in need," he said. "This community definitely needs all the support we can offer to help them be healthy so they can do well in the future."

The word that resonates the most is "partnership," said College of Dental Medicine Dean Steven Friedrichsen, DDS. The partnership between WesternU and Palomares brings together two entities interested in quality education in the health sciences, with a rigorous curriculum and high expectations and great outcomes, he said.

Friedrichsen also acknowledged the key role played by First 5 LA, a unique child-advocacy organization created by California voters to invest tobacco tax revenues in programs aimed at improving the lives of children in Los Angeles County, from prenatal through age 5. First 5 LA provided funding for the school-based oral health centers in PUSD.

WesternU’s College of Dental Medicine (CDM) has created a community model that emphasizes getting children into the oral health care delivery system, or dental homes, by age 1. Other goals include sustainability and getting dental students comfortable with treating young patients.

CDM has four comprehensive oral health centers in the Pomona Unified School District, with the focus on serving children 0-5 years old. College of Dental Medicine faculty and students assess patients and provide dental care and preventative and educational services. Each school-based oral health center has four chairs, and each site sees roughly 18 patients per day, said College of Dental Medicine Associate Dean for Community Partnerships and Access to Care Timothy Martinez, DMD. Initially, the Palomares site will be open on Tuesdays.

The four oral health centers provide a more comfortable and convenient environment for children to receive dental care. Children seem to more readily jump into a dental chair at school than if they’re brought to a dental office, Martinez said.

Poor oral health correlates with poor school performance.

"One goal is to be able to keep children healthy and hopefully improve school performance as well and decrease school absenteeism," Martinez said.

The oral health center will provide Palomares students with a firsthand example of community service, said Palomares Academy of Health Sciences Principal Camille Ramos-Beal, EdD.

"Something we try to do at Palomares is instill the value of service," she said. "We also promote college and career readiness. For our students to see professional dentists and dental students, you have a built-in mentor, something to aspire toward."

Palomares has about 460 students in grades 7-12 who learn about a variety of health sciences careers. Palomares senior Luis Moreno said he wants to be an anesthesiologist.

"I like taking on a lot of responsibility," he said. "I like helping people. It’s a big responsibility."

Having the dental center on campus will provide a lot of opportunities for students, Luis said.

"I know a lot of students are interested in this type of field," he said. "I think it’s great for them to come in and experience the real world of how it’s going to be. It’s great how our school gives us not only one option but several options of careers we would like to take."