Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine announced a new program called Family First in which they will adopt nine families and care for multiple generations in a family unit.
The program is centered on the idea that dental health issues, which can be related to such health problems as diabetes and heart disease, have a tendency to run in the family and are genetically and environmentally influenced. As a part of the program dental students will assess the risk for common dental diseases: cavities, gum diseases and mouth cancer.
“The risk assessment data enable students to provide evidence-based dental care to their patients,” said Dr. Sena Narendran, director of the Family First educational initiative that will involve all the second-year dental students and an associate professor of community dentistry.
The dental school will be collaborating with George Kikano, chair of the Department of Family Medicine and the Dorothy Jones Weatherhead Professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals Case Medical Center, to approach dental care holistically and treat the whole family. Mary Beth Kavanagh, from the department of nutrition at the medical school, assisted in doing the families’ diet risks.
The dental school, which has provided financial support for the initiative, will start with nine families with plans to expand the numbers in the future. The families are from East Cleveland and other near suburbs. Each family has undergone dental and medical screenings and has had a treatment plan prescribed.
Initially the nine preceptor groups, which are mini-dental practices at the CWRU dental center, will care for a family that ranges from five to 10 members.
Starting in August, dental students along with their preceptor, a practicing dentist in the community with a clinical appointment and the preceptor group’s faculty member and advisor, will start care for the family. The dental school will provide each family with a specified amount in free dental care.
Family First is what the CWRU dental educators call A Cornerstone Experience (ACE), designed to be an anchor for the course curriculum and allow for students to translate textbook learning into practice. Each of the four years of dental school, students will have the opportunity to use their knowledge while performing important public health services.
Other ACE components are the Healthy Smiles Program, which takes first-year students into the Cleveland Metropolitan School District to seal the first permanent teeth and molars of second and sixth graders. Sealants are plastic coatings placed on the biting surfaces of teeth to prevent cavities.
Other future ACEs planned include one in geriatric dentistry in nursing homes and one involving every student in a scientific research project. These will be launched in coming years.
“This is an extremely important program. It provides an extended application of the best practices and what students learn to families as well as individuals,” Jerold Goldberg, dean of the dental school.
He added that students will apply their knowledge of evidence-based research to the extended family unit and have a positive influence on dental care in the community.
“Just like a private dentist treats a family, the dental school cares for an entire community,” said Mark Hans, associate dean for graduate studies.
During the announcement, Narendran will provide comments and an overview of the program. Following the announcement, the dental and medical doctors will meet privately to review the treatment plans.
Participants from the dental school are Mark Hans, Rick Jurevic, Sharon Freudenberger, Leena Palomo, Sorin Teich, Danny Sawyer and Wisam Al-Rawi.
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