Community-Based Dental Education

University of Southern California School of Dentistry
Los Angeles, CA.
Type Clinical Research, Academic Enrichment, Health Disparities


The School of Dentistry has a long history of participating in community outreach programs that target underserved populations in the Southern California community as well as internationally. Within Los Angeles County, where our dental school is located, 18% live in extreme poverty, more than 36% are foreign born, and 9.5 million residents representing more than 100 different ethnic/racial groups co-exist within a 2,000 square mile radius. In its new strategic plan, the school renewed its commitment to reducing oral health disparities in the eight counties that comprise the Southern California region. The school manages a wide range of community-based oral health programs that treat the homeless, disadvantaged children, frail elderly, developmentally disabled, and medically and mentally compromised patients. Project Accomplishments include: Expanded senior dental student and resident rotations to average almost 50 days annually at community clinics to provide care for the underserved. Implemented student service-learning surveys to ascertain student attitudes regarding community health care and health disparities. Invited community and other oral health professionals to participate in the development of PBL case studies to emphasize cultural competency. Investigated, developed, and piloted ‘Spanish for Dentistry’ selective course sessions, emphasizing language skills for patient communication. Designed special activities (‘Dental Detectors’ days and ‘Dental Explorers’ summer session) to expose over 180 minority middle and high school students and their parents to the field of dentistry. Initiated an ‘Oral Health Training Curriculum’ and pre-dental clubs at the three L.A. area Medical Magnet High Schools and USC MedCOR. Created educational, mentoring, and leadership activities and community service opportunities for over 100 dental student volunteers. Collaborated with pre-health advisors and pre-dental clubs at southern California colleges to recruit minority students into dentistry. Developed a three-year DAT/dental school admission prep program for minority college students to augment the Pipeline program through additional California Wellness Foundation funding (2005-2008, $240,000). Developed a regional post-baccalaureate program over three summers, with successful dental school admission of all nine participants to date. Supported and participated in ‘Latinos for Dental Careers’ and ‘Welcome Back’ activities for recruiting minority students and re-training/re-licensing foreign-trained dentists to increase workforce diversity. Increased Latino and African-American student enrollment at USCSD – 16 minority freshman admitted in 2006, a four-fold increase from 2003. Partnered with state and local dental societies, foundations, and university alumni groups to raise $250,000 in new minority scholarship funds. Developed community research projects with the USC program in Public Health with master’s degree student internships and rotations. Compiled patient data and collaborated with the Pipeline National Evaluation Team (NET) to analyze our student productivity at community sites. Networked with local and state dental societies, primary care associations, public health departments and others to develop strategies and policies that could increase the dental workforce and reduce oral health care disparities.


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Project Director
Niel Nathason
Pipeline, Profession & Practice: Community-Based Dental Education, 925 West 34th Street, DEN 4338
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0641
Phone: (213) 740-1523
Fax: (213) 740-8663