Dental school provides care to underserved across MinnesotaPart of the mission of the University of Minnesota’s School of Dentistry is to improve access to dental care for underserved populations and rural areas, Dr. Paul Schulz said.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
Part of the mission of the University of Minnesota’s School of Dentistry is to improve access to dental care for underserved populations and rural areas, Dr. Paul Schulz said.
In fact, that’s his job.
Schulz, a Minnesota native who will have been with the school for nine years in August, originally was hired to supervise the Mobile Dental Clinic — the predecessor to the dentist office on wheels that was in Duluth on Wednesday. Seven years ago, his role was expanded to director of outreach. At that time, the school’s outreach consisted of the mobile unit and its clinic in Hibbing.
Now, the dental school operates eight outreach clinics across the state, all staffed by fourth-year dental and dental hygiene students under faculty supervision. It also has four “externship” sites at Indian Health Services and tribal clinics where students serve three-week volunteer shifts during the summer. And students serve in a volunteer clinic at the Union Gospel Mission in St. Paul.
“We’ve built this from nothing,” Schulz said. “We’re providing thousands of people access to dental care who didn’t have it before.”
Another dental school program also is designed to increase access, Schulz said. In December, the school will be the first in the United States to graduate dental therapy students, with nine expected to graduate. “It’s a brand-new dental career that’s meant to increase access to dental care by providing a service similar to the nurse practitioner in medicine,” he said.