November 13, 2012

Dental and nursing programs to share $1.1 million grant

By Genevieve Mills–

Thinking of nursing and dentistry as two completely unique and separate will soon become old-fashioned, at least at U of L, where the two schools are now working on collaborating to provide better all-around healthcare, with the help of an almost 1.1 million dollar federal grant.  This grant, given to U of L two weeks ago by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), will serve to, as University President James Ramsey said in U of L’s press release, “transform our healthcare education by teaching our students a team-based approach through inter-professional education.”

Links between things such as bacteria in the mouth and heart disease have been found, so that dentists can now screen and diagnose diseases that would otherwise go unnoticed until they became more serious. Teaching students in both the master’s nursing and dentistry programs about diseases, such as these, is the focus of the new classes that will be funded by this grant.

David Dunn, U of L’s Executive Vice President for health affairs, pointed out that receiving the grant was “a big deal” for U of L, as it is not money given lightly. He explained that the grant will serve to solve the problem of “our inability. . . to train healthcare practitioners in a multi-disciplinary fashion. “ With this grant, students in nursing and dentistry will be able to learn together so that they can provide comprehensive healthcare in the future.

The grant, to start with, will fund at least two new courses “Inter-professional education, as an introduction, and. . . secondly, integrated health assessment,” according to Marcia Hern, the Dean of the school of nursing. The point of these courses is to improve inter-professional communication as well as collaboration across the different disciplines. As diseases are often not limited to one system of the body, it makes sense that the students, who will one day be providing people with health care, understand all the different sciences of the body.

U of L’s nursing and dentistry programs are already prestigious, and this grant will help both schools grow. Eventually, U of L hopes to create dentists that know how to screen for potentially-fatal heart diseases, a service not everyone gets in their average check-up. Dentistry and nursing students will be learning together, so they can solve healthcare problems together.

Oral diseases can be symptoms of poor health or undiagnosed diabetes, and dental students should be aware of this. Collaboration within the medical field is clearly important. With the help of this grant, U of L healthcare services should be better prepared when the Affordable Care Act takes effect in 2014, as the health system will become more stream-lined and more collaborative.

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Photo courtesy of Flikr/US Army Africa


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