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College of Dentistry awarded $4 million state contract

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The contract will allow the College of Dentistry to provide more access and dental services to underserved, uninsured and at-risk populations in the state. (Photo by Margaret Cain)
The UNMC College of Dentistry has been awarded a $4 million, 10-year contract from the state of Nebraska Oral Health Training and Services fund to help increase the number of dental graduates practicing in rural Nebraska shortage areas and to increase oral health services for the citizens in Nebraska.

The College of Dentistry will work with existing and new partners to:

  • Address the oral health disparities in the state created by the shortage of dentists in rural areas;
  • Provide more access and dental services to underserved, uninsured and at-risk populations in the state including those who are on Medicaid or Medicare; and
  • Expand the use of telehealth to deliver dental services.

"We are extremely appreciative of our ongoing partnerships across the state as well as new partnerships to help us provide the much needed oral health care to the citizens of Nebraska," said Janet Guthmiller, D.D.S., Ph.D., dean of the UNMC College of Dentistry and principal investigator of the contract.

"This investment by the state of Nebraska, UNMC, and our partners is a true testament to what we can accomplish together to improve oral health in our neediest populations," Dr. Guthmiller said.

The funding focuses on three key areas: scholarships for rural graduates; an increase in patient services and access; and telehealth, she said.

Through the contract, UNMC-graduating dentists committing to practice in any designated dental workforce shortage area in Nebraska for at least five years will be eligible to receive a shortage area scholarship. The scholarship will considerably lower, or in some cases might eliminate their dental college education debt.

Another goal of the funding is to increase the number of patients treated by faculty and students of the UNMC College of Dentistry with new or expanded services at our clinics in Lincoln, Durham Outpatient Center and Children's Hospital & Medical Center as well as ongoing and new partnerships across the state (see sidebar).

A key factor to the work will include telehealth training and patient consultation, educational programming and use of new technologies offered through the Interprofessional Experiential Center for Enduring Learning (IEXCEL) at the Global Center for Advanced Interprofessional Learning at UNMC.

"This leap of technology will be a sustaining factor in maintaining a support system for dentists and oral health professionals in more isolated workforce shortage areas across the state," Dr. Guthmiller said.

Funding aids partnerships

The funding also will aid ongoing and new partnerships with Charles Drew Health Center (Douglas County), OneWorld Community Health Center (Douglas, Sarpy and Cass Counties), Good Neighbor Community Health Center (Platte County), People's Health Center (Lancaster County), Community Action Partnership of Western Nebraska (Scotts Bluff and Dawes Counties), and Omaha Public Schools (Douglas and Sarpy Counties).

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