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UMSOD Reaches Out to Inner-City Neighborhoods

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Written by Adam Zewe

University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD) students and faculty members helped improve the oral health of Baltimore residents during the sixth annual City Uprising Block Party and Health Fair on Saturday, June 28. The event commemorates National HIV Testing Day by providing free HIV tests and other health services at community sites in the city. It was sponsored by the JACQUES Initiative, a program of the Institute of Human Virology at the School of Medicine.

Two teams of UMSOD students and faculty members performed oral cancer screenings and provided oral hygiene instructions to 117 patients during the event. Students served areas of the city that have Maryland's highest rates of HIV. They also shared important oral health information with many patients who suffered from other chronic diseases, like diabetes. "This was a great opportunity for our students to be actively involved in community dentistry. They were able to apply their academic and clinic skills in a nonclinical environment, as well as explain that oral health is a part of overall health," remarks Associate Professor Valli Meeks, DDS '88, MS, RDH, who led a team of students at Payne Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Madison Park neighborhood.

Dental screenings are critical for patients who suffer from HIV, since they are prone to periodontitis and certain types of oral lesions. Many HIV-positive patients take numerous medications, and they often suffer from dry mouth as a side effect of the drugs, explains Assistant Professor Isabel Rambob, DDS. Prior to the outreach event, Dr. Rambob taught a group of dental students about oral health conditions that are common in HIV-positive patients. "There are still a lot of misconceptions about the transmission of this disease. As health care professionals, we are also health educators," says Rambob, who led a team of students at the Martin Pollak Project headquarters in Highlandtown.

Students were able to put their knowledge into practice during the event. Shawn Na, DDS '16, acquired additional experience performing oral cancer screenings. He enjoyed answering patients' questions and helping them understand their oral health. "Many patients we spoke with didn't see a need for dental care because of a lack of pain. It is up to us to promote oral hygiene and encourage them to be proactive about dental care through these types of community events," he remarks.

Lindsay Roberts, DDS '15, learned how to effectively communicate with patients about HIV. She plans to use those skills when she becomes certified to administer HIV tests this fall. "Community outreach projects are important to me because they give me perspective into the 'bigger picture' outside of dental school. Events like this are very humbling. They allow me to practice the best ways to communicate with patients who have backgrounds that are different than my own," states Roberts.

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  • Posting Date: 07/10/2014
  • Contact Name: Adam Zewe
  • Contact Phone: 410-706-2289
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