University of Pittsburgh

School of Dental Medicine

Department of Dental Public Health

What is Student Community Outreach Program and Education (SCOPE I and II)?

SCOPE I Is a community-based, pre-clinical rotation that provides dental students with a valuable service learning experience.

The program, for first or second year dental students, facilitates student participation in a non-dental community-based service program.  Students spend a minimum of 50 hours in a community setting where they gain an understanding of the principles of service learning, improve their skills in cultural competency, and gain an appreciation of community needs. Students engage in reflective journaling as the main method of evaluation.

Scope II, is a community-based clinical dental program for fourth year dental students. 

Students participate for a minimum of two weeks in the provision of clinical dental services in one of our affiliated community health center dental clinics. Our clinic network extends throughout western Pennsylvania, from Erie to Greene County in both urban and rural settings. The program is designed to provide students with valuable clinical training experience in a varied, community-based clinic. Journal writing is again utilized and is a key element in the students’ educational experience.

We have found that healthcare administrators, clinicians, and staff at each of our sites are enthusiastic and highly dedicated to facilitating the personal and clinical growth of our students while fostering improved access to care for their patients. We are grateful for the continuing support and participation of all of those involved, and look forward to continually improving and extending our services to other rural and underserved communities.

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SCOPE Mission Statement

To create a learning environment in the School of Dental Medicine where students are able to expand their personal and professional insights, enable development of cultural competencies, and gain experience by working in a variety of cultural, community, and office settings.

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Goals and Objectives

To increase the workforce of dental professionals who treat underserved and at-risk patients by:

  • Enabling development of cultural competence and communication skills
  • Creating a more empathetic, personally committed dentist
  • Improving willingness to treat underserved patients
  • Creating an atmosphere of community-minded professionals

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Student Learning Tools

  1. Develop skills in
    • Observation and Inquiry
    • Elucidation of interactions, relationships and patterns
    • Modification of interactions
  2. Use trust appropriately
    • Respect to patient’s needs, priorities or perspectives
  3. Reflect on one’s own interactions
    • Relationship with patients and other acquaintances
  4. Articulate one’s model of health care
  5. Collaborate with others
  6. Maintain a balance between personal and professional life

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Samples of SCOPE I Community Service

  • Red Cross
  • United Way
  • Local churches, community centers, schools
  • Big Brother/Sister Program
  • UPMC Hillman Cancer Center
  • Girl/Boy Scouts
  • Make a Wish
  • Special Olympics
  • Salvation Army
  • Ronald McDonald House
  • Sarah Heinz House: Boys & Girls Club

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SCOPE II- Student participation

All SDM students must participate during their fourth year for at least a two-week rotation.  Many of the affiliated clinics that are in Allegheny County or in nearby surrounding areas are considered to be close enough to drive within a reasonable daily commute time.

For those centers that are in more remote locations, housing is available, which allows students to spend block rotations (1-2 weeks) at these sites. Importantly, all prospective SDM students, with rare exceptions, need to be aware of the travel commitments that will occur during this project, and that they are responsible for their own transportation. The main transportation in the past has been by private cars (where car-pooling may be an option), and bus transportation is an option for those sites within the city.

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Housing and travel reimbursement

For the more remote affiliated sites in our program, students are offered free housing opportunities during their rotations. Students are also given travel reimbursement for gas mileage for their round trip(s) if the clinics are outside of Allegheny County or not in close vicinity.

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SCOPE II Community Rotation Sites

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Sample of Student Journal Quotes

"The SCOPE program has opened my eyes to seeing dentistry in a whole new light."

"I knew that there were certain groups in the community that were not obtaining adequate dental care due to financial concerns; however, what I did not anticipate was that through the course of the semester that I would develop such an overwhelming desire to do something about it."

"I feel that I learned how to be a leader. I learned that compassion is key in anything one does. I also learned that it takes work to keep a community intact, whether it is a religious or cultural community, a dental school class, or your dental staff. It is all the same. The underlying principles are the same and can be applied to any ventures in life."
"SCOPE II has been an experience that I could never gain from the classroom or clinics. I think this program benefits us at the right point in our lives because it taught us compassion for all people and I think that this experience will make me a better, more considerate, charitable and a more humanitarian dentist."


"Thank you for giving me this opportunity [SCOPE II] to grow not only as a clinician but more importantly as an individual. This community service project is just the beginning for me. When I am practicing as a dentist, I will take this experience with me and continue to help in underserved communities."

"This selective has inspired me to continue serving the community regardless of where I choose to practice dentistry. I will take part in community service projects, outreach programs, and screening events throughout my career as a dentist. . . I definitely feel like a better dentist and a better person after taking part in the [SCOPE II course]."


"It made me value more fully the human spirit."

"It has opened my eyes to the reality of the world and its injustices. I walk away from the program a person changed for the better and a person who vows to make a difference in her own career."

"It is important to not lose sight of the kind of dentist you want to be, the kind of person you should be!"

"This was a very worthwhile event because I got a chance to see what mattered to the people in this community. Hopefully, I will be able to use this experience to become a better communicator with my future patients."

"This community service, I have to confess, has given me the opportunity to search my heart and motivation again. I am glad that I spent those hours, thinking and working with different people."

"I am very happy the USDM has the SCOPE course as a part of the curriculum because it truly does help the student look at him or herself and reflect on who they are and what they want out of life. I feel after this experience that I have a better understanding of what I want out of my career." (Student 2005)

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Robert J. Weyant, MS, DMD, DrPH, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Dental Public Health and Associate Dean for Dental Public Health and Community Outreach at the School of Dental Medicine phone: (412) 648-3052



Richard Rubin, DDS, MPH, Assistant Professor, Department of Dental Public Health and Director, Student Community Outreach Program and Education (S.C.O.P.E.) program at the School of Dental Medicine phone: (412) 648-2069

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