The UIC College of Dentistry aims to prepare an oral health care workforce competent and committed to addressing oral health needs of vulnerable and underserved populations, and a workforce that plays its part in eliminating health disparities. Our Service Learning curriculum is integrated throughout all four years of dental school. It is a progressive curriculum, which includes didactic components as well as introducing students to a variety of community-based, hands-on experiences outside of the College.
There are many ways our students get involved and enhance their training through Community Health programs. Students can:
- Participate in running a dental clinic at Goldie’s Place.
- In their first year, provide valuable early prevention education in fun ways in numerous community schools and health centers.
- Serve the unique and complex need scenarios of special needs and disabled patients.
- Dedicate up to half of their fourth year experience to a community health focus on rotations across several sites, locally and even outside the US.
- Gain first-hand knowledge and expertise practicing within private practices, hospitals, community health centers, and mobile units in both rural and urban locations.
- Serve as ambassadors to the College on rotations outside the US in Guatemala, Tanzania and China.
Our curriculum is designed to offer a broad range of community service learning opportunities that prepare dental students for careers in diverse settings and to encourage their interest in working with the underserved populations. The College has partnered with community-based organizations throughout Chicagoland, Illinois and Colorado, and internationally, including Guatemala, China and Tanzania to offer students a remarkable set of community-based service-learning experiences. The program begins in the first year, culminating in a fourth-year course during which students rotate through three, four, and sometimes five different community-based service settings, with a format of 1 week at a site followed by 1 week at the college for an 8-week cycle. The process is repeated at another site for another 8-week cycle, and so on. This is a required 12-unit course that is for credit and graded. The sites are specifically selected to provide a full and rich range of different types of delivery systems.
We partner with several Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), and each is based in a different kind of community or serves a specific population—eg, rural, predominantly Hispanic or African American or migrant workers in Colorado—or serves a specific population, such as developmentally disabled patients. Two sites provide care via mobile vans. We also have centers in Guatemala and China and expect to have one in Tanzania in the near future. Each of our 20+ partner sites is a medical–dental facility in which oral health is highly integrated into the healthcare delivery system.
Over the first three years at the College, students are introduced to issues contributing to health disparities in this country, thereby impacting a person's oral health status. While visiting local communities and community organizations, students are provided with first-hand learning experiences including providing oral health education in elementary schools and engaging in a variety of volunteer opportunities which lend themselves to explore the following topics: health education, access to health care, social determinants of health, risk factors, and literacy, language, & culture.
Fourth year students engage in service-learning experiences as part of a required course which involves community-based rotations at partnering health centers. Students devote a minimum of 50 days at these sites providing care to underserved urban, rural, and special-needs populations including children, developmentally disabled, HIV-positive and geriatric patients.
For more information about our Community Based Education efforts please contact:
Khatija Noorallah, MPH, MEd
Clinical Community Academic Manager
Students Lead Dental Clinic at Goldies Place Serving the Homeless
Community Based Service Learning Infographic
Check out this infographic for statistics on the amazing impact ours students have on prevention and public health locally and around the world.