October 25, 2016

UW regional dental education program wins national award

A groundbreaking School of Dentistry program that seeks to improve access to dental care in rural and underserved areas of Washington state has received the top award in dental education.

The UW’s Regional Initiatives in Dental Education (RIDE) program, which began in 2008, was named recipient of the 2017 William J. Gies Award for Vision by an Academic Dental Institution, the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) announced Monday.

The Gies awards, which are bestowed by the ADEA Gies Foundation, began in 2008 and are named after the late William J. Gies, a Columbia University biochemistry professor who is considered the founder of modern dental education. In 1926, he published The Gies Report: Dental Education in the United States and Canada, which established the importance of dentistry as a healing science, a learned profession, and an essential component of higher education in the health professions.

RIDE students in Spokane (on video monitor), shown taking a test with their Seattle classmates, are connected to the School of Dentistry by distance-learning technology.

RIDE students in Spokane (on video monitor), shown taking a test with their Seattle classmates, are connected to the School of Dentistry by distance-learning technology.

“Speaking on behalf of all the RIDE faculty and staff, I want to thank the ADEA Gies Foundation for recognizing us with this prestigious award,” said Dr. Wendy Mouradian, RIDE’s founder and now a strategic advisor for the program’s expansion.

“RIDE has been a mission-based program from the beginning,” Dr. Mouradian said. “This commitment to improving access to oral health in rural and underserved communities has enabled us to build RIDE into a program that recruits, selects and trains dental students for service in these areas. Our success in placing students in these communities is the result of the concerted effort of many stakeholders – including our state Legislature – to make this vision a reality. It has been so gratifying to work with a group of committed students who are making a difference in in meeting the needs of our underserved communities.”

“We are very honored to have the RIDE program recognized by the American Dental Education Association with the 2017 Gies Award,” said Dr. Frank Roberts, RIDE program director. “We are especially grateful for our wonderful partners and the outstanding community health dental clinics of Central and Eastern Washington. We look forward to growing this incredible program.”

“RIDE has provided us with many useful lessons as we implement our Dentist of the Future curriculum, and it is one of the keys to our excellence as a school,” said School of Dentistry Dean Joel Berg.

The partners cited by Dr. Roberts include RIDE’s principal collaborators, Eastern Washington University (EWU) and the UW School of Medicine’s WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) regional program. Others are the Spokane District Dental Society, Washington State Dental Association, and Washington Dental Service Foundation.

RIDE students such as Patty Martin spend several weeks in fourth-year community clinical rotations in Eastern Washington, and most go on to practice east of the mountains. Dr. Martin, who graduated with the first RIDE cohort in 2012, practices in Walla Walla.

RIDE students such as Patty Martin spend several weeks in fourth-year community clinical rotations in Eastern Washington, and most go on to practice east of the mountains. Dr. Martin, who graduated with the first RIDE cohort in 2012, practices in Walla Walla.

RIDE accepts eight entrants each year, with students spending their first year at EWU’s Spokane campus, which is jointly operated by EWU and Washington State University. There they take dental courses from on-site instructors and from UW School of Dentistry faculty in Seattle, to whom they are connected by a distance-learning network. Dental students also take some classes side by side with medical students and dental hygiene students.

After serving a month-long community clinical rotation in the summer after their first year, RIDE students return to Seattle and spend their second, third and first part of fourth year studying with the rest of their UW dental classmates. Later in fourth year, they embark on an extended rotation of four to six months at one of several Eastern Washington community clinics which are part of RIDE’s teledentistry network.

These extended rotations increase students’ familiarity with rural and underserved populations and let them learn more about practice opportunities in these communities, according to RIDE officials. The Eastern Washington connection also improves that chances that RIDE graduates will practice in the rural and underserved areas of the State, RIDE officials say. To date, about 70 percent of RIDE graduates have returned to practice in such communities.

The School of Dentistry hopes to expand the RIDE program to 30 students a year, and has already begun collaborating with the Montana Dental Association to create community clinical rotations in that state. Plans for expansion call for an enhanced Spokane training facility, which would let students also spend their second year of dental school in Spokane.

“Few programs have enjoyed such a high level of success as RIDE, thanks to a combination of far-sighted vision and careful, process-oriented planning and evaluation,” said Dean Berg. “We owe a great debt to Dr. Wendy Mouradian, whose vision and determination as Associate Dean of Regional Affairs were instrumental in establishing this program and ensuring its successful start.”

The 2017 Gies Awards will be presented on March 20 at ADEA’s annual meeting in Long Beach, Calif. In addition to the RIDE program, eight other winners will be recognized.