Promoting Oral Health through Community Engagement and Outreach | A Message from the Dean

As a college and dental student, some of my fondest memories were participating in community service events. My college fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, had a strong emphasis on providing service to the community, and this was reinforced by my activities as a member of the Student National Dental Association. 

As a land grant institution, connecting to and serving the people of Minnesota is a strong aspect of our mission. In our strategic plan, an action item is to participate in community outreach programs and events that provide clinical care or promote oral health. To be completely candid, setting this action is more of an acknowledgment of what we do, and a challenge to hold ourselves accountable to be consistent and engaged in the community. 

With over 600 learners, a significant amount of our engagement has been through our fourteen clinical outreach sites that our DDS, Dental Hygiene and Dental Therapy students rotate through and provide care at. We also have students and faculty who volunteer their time at Hope Dental Clinic in the evenings. Priscilla Flynn, DrPH, MPH, LDH, CHES, has engaged in both oral health promotion research and community engagement. Several faculty and staff volunteer by serving at booths at the “Great Minnesota Get Together,” the State Fair. In the second-year dental public health course, our students learn to promote oral health in the community and then have the experience of going into the community. Serving and engaging our community is a part of our DNA and something we value.

In 2020, Susan Buck-Wischmeier, DDS, represented the School of Dentistry on a Mobile Health Initiative run by the Office of Academic Clinical Affairs. This interprofessional collaborative initiative partners with different organizations in the metro and outstate to provide basic screenings, including vision, physicals, pharmacy, dental care and other resources. The community co-designs this project with the University by guiding what services are provided or informing us of the community’s needs. The School of Dentistry has primarily been involved in events such as the Migrant Worker Fairs in Southern MN.

In considering the many points of community engagement that the School of Dentistry participates in, I am sure there is an opportunity for your involvement. I encourage you to volunteer for one event  a year, and let’s see the impact we can make together.