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RIDE Updates

UWSOD Dental Alumni News Features RIDE Program

Read the full article highlighting the RIDE Program and previous RIDE graduates: RIDE Story – UW School of Dentistry (

RIDE Announces 2022 Graduates

The University of Washington School of Dentistry’s Office of Regional Affairs & RIDE is pleased to announce the RIDE program’s Class of 2022 graduates. Congratulations to these new dentists for their commitment to excellence in oral health, serving rural and underserved communities.

RIDE’s Class of 2022 gathers outside the Health Sciences Building at Eastern Washington University’s Spokane campus, where they attended their first year of dental school. Back: Alec Montemayor, Robert Thureson, Jess Cayetano. Front: Katarina Behla, Natasha Paranjapye, Claire Russell, Penelope Plyler, Claire Russell

The Regional Initiatives in Dental Education (RIDE) program aims to increase the number of DDS graduates who practice in rural and/or underserved areas of Washington state by training a cohort of eight students in a specially focused track of the overall DDS curriculum. By immersing RIDE dental students in more remote communities and through extensive clinical training serving these populations, RIDE works to more equitably distribute the workforce and improve access to care in areas of critical need. Since its inception in 2009, over 70 percent of the RIDE DDS graduates who are in dental practice have returned to rural or underserved communities in Washington state and the rest of the Pacific Northwest.

The RIDE program is an extension of the University of Washington School of Dentistry in partnership with Eastern Washington University. Find out more about RIDE and the school’s admissions process.

Dr. Frank Roberts named Associate Dean for Regional Affairs

Dr. Frank Roberts

Dr. Frank Roberts, who has directed the School of Dentistry’s Regional Initiatives in Dental Education (RIDE) program since 2014, has been named Associate Dean for Regional Affairs. In his new post, Dr. Roberts oversees the school’s educational outreach to the WWAMI region (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho), which is also served by the School of Medicine. He will also help lead the dental school’s efforts to expand access for developmentally and other disabled patients in rural Washington, in which RIDE’s community clinical sites will play a major role.

Following Dean Chiodo’s vision for expanding the scope of Regional Affairs, Dr. Roberts will also work closely with two key School of Dentistry entities: the Office of Educational Partnerships and Diversity (OEPD) and the Timothy A. DeRouen Center for Global Oral Health.

OEPD, directed by Dr. Bea Gandara, pursues a community-oriented mission to support teaching and learning initiatives that promote culturally appropriate improvements in oral health care access and reductions in oral health disparities. “I’m looking forward to collaborating with OEPD as they create new regional community partnerships and to support the admissions pipeline for underrepresented students,” Dr. Roberts said.

The DeRouen Center, directed by Dr. Ana Lucia Seminario, is the school’s primary vehicle to facilitate international collaborations in oral health research and education. “The DeRouen Center already does superb work, and I see great potential for us to take advantage of our strengths in securing educational grants to create research and training capacities in low- and middle-income countries. This opportunity will enrich the dental education of our students as they will have a more interprofessional knowledge of global oral health issues,” he said. “The DeRouen Center will also continue to help us expand our reach to the refugee community in Washington.”

“Dr. Roberts, with his wealth of experience and proven leadership, is the ideal candidate to fill this post,” said Dean Chiodo. “He has consistently shown the abilities needed to lead RIDE’s continued development, and he will help spur critical thinking around regional affairs, program and relationship building, and innovation as a member of our executive leadership team. We are fortunate to have such a highly qualified faculty member in this critical role.”

RIDE students bolster Eastern Washington’s dental health

Spending the spring before graduation with your hands in strangers’ mouths might not be every student’s cup of tea. Kaitlin Poppe, however, couldn’t have enjoyed herself more.

Kaitlin Poppe Gerald Hino
RIDE student Kaitlin Poppe reviews a patient’s care with Dr. Gerald Hino, her preceptor at the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Nob Hill clinic, during a clinical rotation in the spring. Poppe has since obtained her DDS degree.

Dr. Poppe, who received her dental degree from the University of Washington in June, spent the spring at the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Nob Hill clinic in Yakima in a clinical rotation for the UW School of Dentistry. The rotation was part of the school’s Regional Initiatives in Dental Education (RIDE) program, which was launched in 2007 with state funds. In addition to Dr. Poppe, UW dental students fanned out to rotations at community clinics in Colville, Moses Lake, Spokane, Lake Spokane, Wenatchee, Othello and Okanogan.

“Every day I was treating someone who otherwise would not receive care. Every day I knew I was making a difference in someone’s life, and I don’t think there is anything more rewarding than that,” Dr. Poppe said.


Built with the help of Eastern Washington University’s dental hygiene program, RIDE was created to improve access to dental care in rural and underserved areas of the state, especially in Eastern Washington.

Dentists are clustered heavily along the I-5 corridor in Western Washington, but far less so east of the mountains. For example, in 2007, King County had six times as many dentists per capita as Pend Oreille County in Washington’s northeast corner.

Aside from availability, other factors that affect access to care include income and insurance coverage. “I have always been aware of the need for community dentistry, but was not aware of the extent of the need,” Dr. Poppe said. “We had patients who drove from hundreds of miles away to be seen at our clinic because we are the only ones who will see them. I always thought access-to-care problems were due to geography, but now realize that it is much more than that.”

The clinics where the RIDE students worked generally see a high proportion of patients who live below the poverty line, are on Medicaid or have no insurance. A significant number are children.

“The RIDE program is one of the great ways to increase access for low-income and Medicaid-insured children and adults,” said Dr. Bruce Wilcox, the dental director at Columbia Valley Community Health in Wenatchee. “The rotations are certainly a win for the students, but also for us and our patients.”

RIDE students are supervised by their clinical preceptors and other licensed dentists while seeing patients – more closely at the outset of their rotations, less so as they become more proficient. Few patients object to being treated by a student clinician.

“Patients’ response to the RIDE students has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Dr. Ryan Busk, dental director at the Family Health Centers Dental Clinic in Okanogan. “The most commonly heard expression is, ‘Yes, I would love to work with the student – everyone has to learn sometime.’”

This year marked the second group of students to graduate from the RIDE program, which is a special track at the School of Dentistry that enrolls eight students each year. RIDE students spend their first year at the Riverpoint campus in Spokane, a joint venture of Washington State University and Eastern Washington University. They study alongside medical and dental hygiene students, using the latest distance-learning technology.

RIDE is also a partnership with the UW’s WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Idaho) regional medical education program. It is a successful, established model that helps supply young physicians to rural and underserved areas in the Northwest.

“We’ve had the advantage of WWAMI’s tremendous experience over more than 40 years, and we’re finding additional benefits as well,” said Dr. Wendy Mouradian, associate dean of regional affairs and RIDE at the UW School of Dentistry. “RIDE Is also a terrific example of collaboration among public universities to address community needs – in this case, for dental care.

“RIDE has also partnered with the private dental community, especially the Spokane District Dental Society, as well as public health clinics,” Dr. Mouradian said. “It has helped us learn more about interprofessional education, which is becoming a major element of medical and dental education. All the medical and dental students at Riverpoint gain a great deal from their mutual association, including a better understanding of the patient’s overall health outside their own discipline.”

With distance-learning technology playing an expanding role in professional education, RIDE’s experience is proving invaluable here as well, Dr. Mouradian said, expanding the School of Dentistry’s educational technology infrastructure to include the Riverpoint campus and RIDE community sites.

RIDE students spend their second and third years with their other dental classmates at the UW in Seattle, and then spend the spring of their fourth year at one of several Eastern Washington community health centers. They also participate in an earlier summer clinical rotation.

“We believe that when our students spend extended periods of time in these communities, work with local providers and get to know the residents, they’re much more likely to want to settle there and practice,” Dr. Mouradian said.

That’s how Dr. Eric Nygard sees it after completing his rotation at the Lake Spokane Community Health Center. “This is a fascinating community, one that my wife and I have discussed moving back to,” he said. “The people in this community are very supportive of each other.”

After receiving his DDS, Dr. Nygard began a dental anesthesia residency at Loma Linda University in Southern California, but he planned to return.

“After this residency, I plan to move to Eastern Washington to serve the communities there as a dentist and dental anesthesiologist, largely serving pediatric and special-needs populations,” he said. “My rotation has influenced my thinking about community dentistry, because I can see that some populations would otherwise not receive comprehensive dental care without access to community dental clinics,” he said.