Evaluation of pipeline program provides strategies for dental institutions

June 10, 2009
Opportunities provided to address dental care access crisis.

WASHINGTON, D.C.--The results of the first longitudinal evaluation to systematically assess the effectiveness of an initiative to transform dental education have been released in the Journal of Dental Education.

Sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the California Endowment, the evaluation of the Pipeline, Profession, and Practice: Community-Based Dental Education program examines strategies for improving access to oral health care in the United States.

"The study is remarkable because it provides important insights about how to gain diversity in the dental profession and ways to increase access to dental care in underserved areas," said Laura C. Leviton, PhD, special advisor at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and program officer for the evaluation of the Pipeline, Profession, and Practice: Community Based Dental Education program.

Conducted by the National Evaluation Team, the evaluation examined aspects of the Pipeline program experience, including recruitment of underrepresented groups to dentistry, curriculum revisions, clinical services to the underserved, and sustainability. The National Evaluation Team was based at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"With better information about the effects of the strategy, the participating dental schools can make informed decisions about continuing efforts, and dental schools that did not participate can make informed decisions about joining the strategy," said Dr. Leviton.

The Pipeline program was based on the concept that dental institutions can begin to address the access to dental care crisis by recruiting and admitting more underrepresented minority students and others with characteristics shown to predispose an individual to community service.

Then by moving a substantive portion of a senior dental student's clinical education into the community, a greater number of underserved patients are reached by culturally competent caregivers, and the student receives more time in the clinic setting. The evaluation found that 300 facilities participated in the program and nearly 130,000 patients from underserved communities were treated.

Among the significant outcomes of the evaluation, students' financial burdens after dental school were found to be a factor inhibiting their decision to provide care in underserved communities. The lack of a "critical mass" of current URM students and faculty also affected schools' URM recruitment efforts.

In response, participating schools redoubled their efforts to provide financial aid and conducted outreach activities to recruit more URM students. Strong administrative leadership, faculty support of URM recruitment programs, and schools' ability to integrate CBDE programs into their curriculum also pointed to greater success of the Pipeline program.

There were 15 participating dental schools that developed methods to recruit more URM and low-income students, including revising the curriculum to improve cultural competence of dental schools.

During the course of this study, URM enrollees increased by 27% in all Pipeline schools and 54% in Pipeline schools that do not traditionally serve large populations of minority students.

The participating dental schools were:

* Boston University Goldman School of Dental Medicine

* Howard University College of Dentistry

* Loma Linda University School of Dentistry

* Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry

* The Ohio State University College of Dentistry

* University of California, Los Angeles School of Dentistry

* University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine

* University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry

* University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry

* University of Southern California School of Dentistry

* University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry

* University of Washington School of Dentistry

* West Virginia University School of Dentistry

Currently eight more schools are engaged in the Pipeline program.

ADEA Members can log on at American Dental Education Association to read the full report in the supplement to the February 2009 JDE. Others can contact Lesley Ward at Lesley Ward for a copy.

To read more about the ADEA, go to American Dental Education Association.

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