WesternU gets $8.4M pledge from First 5 LA

Western University of Health Sciences (WesternU) College of Dental Medicine will receive $8.4 million from First 5 LA to provide dental care to uninsured and underserved children.

The First 5 LA Commission approved the initial 19-month contract for $3.1 million with the university, part of a five-year, $38 million project in cooperation with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Southern California. The total awarded to the university through the full five-year implementation of the program is anticipated to be $8.4 million.

The program will emphasize getting children into the oral healthcare delivery system, or dental homes, by age 1, said Timothy Martinez, DMD, College of Dental Medicine associate dean for community partnerships and access to care.

College of Dental Medicine faculty and students will assess patients and provide dental care and preventive and educational services. The college will work with the San Gabriel Valley Foundation for Dental Health, WesternU's Patient Care Center, and the Center for Oral Health, which is now housed on WesternU's Pomona campus. It also plans to work collaboratively to establish four school-based dental oral health centers.

An emphasis will be placed on tracking patients to ensure preventive maintenance and treatment plan adherence, Dr. Martinez noted.

WesternU is working with school districts that have high Medicaid enrollment, and one goal is to create sustainability. Part of the plan is to integrate oral health services with established school-based health centers. In addition, interprofessional training will train nurse practitioners and physician assistants in areas of patient interaction, such as caries prevention and how to apply fluoride varnish.

Additionally, the program will introduce College of Dental Medicine students to caring for very young patients early in their education, which does not typically happen in dental schools, noted College of Dental Medicine Dean Steven Friedrichsen, DDS. It is aimed at preparing the next generation of dentists to understand the importance of a dental home, a first dental visit by their first birthday, and early intervention and treatment for children.

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