Assisting Patient Care, Education in Valley
Thanks to support from the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation, the School of Dentistry is able to continue its mission of increasing access to oral health care through collaborative partnerships providing preventative dental outreach services, treatment and education in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
Dental students have been providing dental health care to uninsured and underinsured patients at the Brownsville Community Health Center and at Su Clinica Familiar in Harlingen, Brownsville and Raymondville for over 30 years. The dental students average more than 1,300 adult and pediatric patient visits annually at Su Clinica Familiar. Many underserved adults have untreated caries and periodontal disease. All senior dental students complete a two-week rotation at a South Texas community clinic; a third rotate to Su Clinica Familiar.
Josh Champion, fourth-year dental student, did a rotation at Su Clinica. Working under Natalie Garza, D.D.S. Class of 2015, he saw pediatric and adult patients and performed procedures, including extractions and restorations.
“The greatest learning experience was being able to treat the pediatric population. While in school, there are not many opportunities to work on pediatric patients, especially on infants. Being able to learn how to properly manage pediatric patients compared to adult patients was very beneficial,” said Champion, who was born in McAllen and raised in Pharr and McAllen.
The partnerships in the LRGV have expanded to include UTRGV School of Medicine, the Methodist Healthcare Ministries Wesley Nurse Program, and Cameron Park/colonias in Brownsville.
Rising second-year dental students on rotation during their summer preventive education outreach selective assist with these oral health screenings at mobile outreach clinics. The School of Dentistry has developed a provider pipeline program to recruit and train undergraduate students from the region.
A grant from the foundation has allowed the school to continue expanding all these partnerships resulting in underserved residents receiving much-needed oral health care while educating students, residents and interprofessional health care providers in the area.