MN-CROHP program students serve rural Minnesota

Alyssa Hedstrom, DDS and Jessica Lettelleir

School of Dentistry student Jessica Lettelleir is spending three weeks of her summer break in tiny Gilbert, Minnesota, building her skills under the supervision of Dr. Witney Cobby, DMD.

This summer, 18 School of Dentistry students like Lettelleir are serving patients in rural communities, mentored by dentists in private practice.

The Minnesota Collaborative Rural Oral Health Project program aims to expand access to care in underserved rural Minnesota communities by introducing emerging providers to rural life and practice.

“There is a huge need for dentists in Greater Minnesota,” said Naty Lopez, PhD, assistant dean for admissions and diversity at the School of Dentistry. “Many are retiring, and there are not enough young providers returning to rural areas to take their places.”

Nearly half of all dentists in rural Minnesota are 55 or older according to an August 2018 report by the Minnesota Office of Rural Health and Human Services.

The Minnesota Collaborative Rural Oral Health Project targets Northeast, West Central and Southeast Minnesota. This optional program offered to students by the school is funded by a $1.7 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health.

The School of Dentistry has a strong commitment to serving Greater Minnesota. In addition to the three-week MN-CROHP program, the school exposes its students to practicing in Greater Minnesota through its clinical sites in Cass Lake, Cloquet, Cook, Hibbing, Ogema, Red Lake and Willmar.