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Release: Immediate

New UI center blends pediatric dentistry, dental public health training

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A federal grant of more than $900,000 funds a new center at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry that combines pediatric dentistry training with a public health focus.

The five-year center grant awarded in July by the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health (MCH) supports a three-year residency program leading to pediatric dentistry certification and a master's degree in dental public health. According to Dr. Arthur Nowak, professor of pediatric dentistry and director of the program, the goal is to produce pediatric dentists who are leaders and advocates for public health issues pertaining to mothers and children -- especially those with special health care needs.

"Our graduates will be able to work with large populations, see problems and develop special programs for vulnerable populations with minimal access to oral health care," he says. "We want to give graduates the tools they need to take a more global view."

Populations targeted by the program include people with disabilities and children from low-income families. The UI College of Dentistry has a long history of serving these and other groups.

The new program also aims to reach out to other pediatric dentistry programs across the country, providing curriculum models and other resources to enhance education. "Very few programs teach practitioners how to interact in their communities and to take health leadership and advocacy roles. We want to extend this kind of information to other programs," Nowak says.

Continuing education, consultation and technical assistance for practicing dentists also will be a goal of the program. Nowak describes plans to offer a series of continuing education programs for dentists and other health professionals, perhaps using the Iowa Communications Network (ICN) to reach remote sites around the state.

The grant funds two pediatric dentistry residents each year. The UI College of Dentistry continues to offer the traditional two-year pediatric dentistry training and certification program for dentists interested primarily in clinical practice.