Proposed bill would aid dentists in underserved areas

A bill recently introduced into the U.S. Congress by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) is being lauded for its intent to improve access to proper oral healthcare in underserved populations.

According to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), H.R. 6613, "Improving Dental Access in Underserved Communities Act of 2008," would increase funding for the National Health Service Corps to $300 million for each of the fiscal years 2009 through 2013, with $100 million earmarked annually for students pursuing a career in dentistry.

"We support this bill as it will help provide access to dental care for underserved communities -- a top legislative goal for the AGD -- by helping ensure that more dental students are able to economically pursue a career in general dentistry, serve in medically underserved areas, and still be able to afford their education," said Paula Jones, D.D.S., F.A.G.D., AGD's newly elected president. "While a vast number of new dentists want to serve in these areas, simple economic realities of loan repayments prevent them from doing so."

According to the American Dental Education Association, dental school graduates' student loan debt now exceeds $145,000.

This legislation would also re-establish programs that would increase the representation of minority and disadvantaged students in the health professions. It would also provide $35.6 million for the Health Career Opportunities Program, which funds programming at postsecondary institutions that encourages individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds to enter and graduate from medical and other allied health profession schools.

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