At the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine, future physicians and health care professionals are learning in a unique environment that embraces the new interconnected realities of patient care. The Frontier Center, established 10 years ago with generous contributions from the Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation, offers students hands-on inter-professional opportunities in a collaborative, team-based setting.
Kimberly Uweh, a pharmacy student, decided to attend the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at CU Anschutz because of the leading-edge interdisciplinary research and education taking place on campus. Uweh was excited for the opportunity to attend a highly collaborative university where she could develop her professional skills, and Frontier Center in the CU School of Dental Medicine offered just that. “My most memorable experience thus far has been working with the CU School of Dental Medicine,” she said. Uweh has enjoyed the ability to immerse herself in the dental school to better understand the needs of dental patients. “My work at the Frontier Center provided me with the opportunity to talk with dental students about smoking cessation, specific antibiotics and special patient cases.” This cross-disciplinary experience is what the Frontier Center fosters, helping prepare students to deliver quality patient care in an increasingly interconnected health care field.
The Frontier Center’s is dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding of the importance of oral health and the connections between good dental health and overall health by encouraging interactions between dentistry and medicine. “Research continues to indicate a connection between oral health and overall health when it comes to disease management,” said Barbara Springer, executive director of the Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation. “To really make an impact in student learning and patient care, an inter-professional approach is needed.”
In total, over 3,500 students, residents and practitioners have taken part in the inter-professional programming at the Frontier Center, which received national recognition in 2012 when the CU School of Dental Medicine received the prestigious American Dental Education Association Gies Award for Innovation by a Dental Institution.
This year, the Frontier Center received an additional $1 million gift from the Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation to expand its focus and create the Frontier Center 4 Health initiative, the country’s first inter-professional practice within a dental school. This health clinic will offer opportunities for greater collaboration between medical and dental faculty and students as they work together to address individualized patient needs.
Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Eric Gilliam said, “By working alongside dental students and seeing firsthand the importance of preventative oral care, our pharmacy students become much more aware of the impact that a patient’s oral health has on that patient’s prescription needs.” For future pharmacists like Uweh, this experience is invaluable in preparing them to effectively treat patients. “It’s exciting to share information with my peers in other disciplines. Everyone is extremely intelligent, and this program provides an opportunity to better understand other medical fields.”
The momentum that has been building at the CU School of Dental Medicine over the past decade is due, in large part, to the Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation’s ongoing support. “This gift allows us to redesign our programs in order to provide a contemporary curriculum for both dental and other health care students on campus,” said Dr. Denise Kassebaum, dean of the CU School of Dental Medicine. “By creating opportunities for students to observe and participate in these new models of care delivery, we hope to better prepare our future health care workforce to deliver the best possible care for decades to come.”