The Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has extended a grant to The Dental College of Georgia, infusing another $1.6 million into its efforts to reach underserved citizens. The funds will be spent over the next four years in areas including:
• Expanding senior dental students’ externship opportunities in underserved areas of Georgia
• Offsetting the students’ externship-related expenses, such as transportation and lodging
• Expanding perinatal and prenatal oral health education for underserved expectant mothers in Georgia
• Providing oral health care for the mothers’ infants beginning at age 1
• Educating socioeconomically disadvantaged youths about dentistry as a potential career path
“We are thrilled to have this funding,” says Dr. Tara Schafer, chair of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry. “We’ve had great support from HRSA in the past and are delighted they are demonstrating faith in our mission by continuing the funding.”
Total funding thus far exceeds $6.5 million.
“The funding is great news for our students, community and state,” Schafer says. “The grant addresses the public’s needs on multiple levels, all of which will enhance oral health care in Georgia.”
For instance, the new externships will not only serve the students’ educational needs while exposing them to underserved areas of the state, but will bolster oral health treatment in the areas. And many of the externship sites are part of public health clinics, enabling the DCG to partner with the clinics’ other health care professionals to address comprehensive needs of community members, particularly expectant women and children.
“The better oral health care expectant mothers have, the healthier their children will be,” Schafer says. “For example, excess bacteria in the mother’s mouth can be transmitted to the newborn. And of course, the more knowledgable the mother is about good oral health, the better she’ll be able to teach the same habits to her children. We’re creating educational podcasts and videos now.”
And the message will be reinforced as the grant helps the DCG expand its treatment of underserved children in the community.
“We’ve paired with the Boys’ & Girls’ Club of the CSRA to transport participants to the DCG for dental care, and we hope to add occasional evening or weekend hours to optimize their convenience,” Schafer says.