Faculty from the University of Michigan (U-M) Dental Hygiene Program and the U-M School of Social Work collaborated to develop a 2-credit course for senior Dental Hygiene students entitled “Skills for Patient- and Family-Centered Care with Diverse Populations” (SW 503). The project was designed to transform the senior year Dental Hygiene outreach rotation from a free-standing experience to a fully integrated part of the curriculum through two key mechanisms: (1) addressing the preparation students need prior to their clinical outreach rotation by delivering academic content tailored to the populations they will serve, and (2) providing the opportunity to reflect mindfully upon the outreach experience after its conclusion.
The project has supported a significant change to the Dental Hygiene curriculum, in that SW 503 has now become a required senior year course. All students who graduate from the Dental Hygiene Program will now have been exposed to concepts such as Social Determinants of Health and Cultural Humility, and will have been given the opportunity to "debrief" critical incidents during their required outreach rotation. Through CRLT-facilitated student focus groups, the instructor gained important information about the course's strengths and weaknesses, and was able to incorporate this feedback into each year's curriculum. In particular, the course has grown less academic and more experiential in nature.
As discussed, SW 503 is now a required course in the Dental Hygiene program. Moreover, course development fostered stronger connections between Dental Hygiene and Social Work Faculty, leading to unexpected opportunities for collaboration. For example, the project lead (Lapidos - Social Work) recently traveled to Japan with another faculty member (Furgeson - Dental Hygiene) to learn from Tokyo Medical and Dental University's efforts to integrate social work into their dental hygiene curriculum. It is hoped that even more integration of social work and oral health will result from this project as collaboration continues.
The project has resulted in a peer-reviewed publication (see Lapidos, A., & Gwozdek, A. (2016). An Interprofessional Approach to Exploring the Social Determinants of Health with Dental Hygiene Students. Journal of Allied Health, 45(3), 43E-47E) as well as two poster presentations at the 2016 and 2017 U-M Health Professions Education Day. The latter poster was co-presented with students in SW 503. The project also resulted in a student-authored article in Access Magazine, which is the American Dental Hygiene Association's publication for practicing dental hygienists (see Pedersen, E. Gaining Skills for Patient and Family-Centered Care with Diverse Populations through a Social Work Course. Access Magazine, July 2016). Finally, the project lead (Lapidos) is an invited speaker for the Fall 2017 South Central District Dental Hygienists' Association Meeting, and will be discussing the course there.