Understanding and treating the dental health needs of the residents of the Commonwealth is the focus of the community outreach effort at the School of Dental Medicine.
Student Community Outreach Program and Education (SCOPE) aims to create a learning environment 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.
Constructed in 2-parts, SCOPE gives students both non-dental and clinical community-based service experience during three out of four years at the school. Community settings encourage students to gain an understanding of the principles of service learning; improve skills in cultural competency; gain an appreciation of community needs; and gain valuable clinical training experience in community-based clinics in rural or urban areas. Students engage in reflective journaling as part of the educational experience.
SCOPE Mission Statement and Goals
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.
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
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. Opportunities exist in the following community centers:
- 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
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.
For those centers that are in more remote locations, housing is available, which allows students to spend block rotations of about 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.