The School of Dentistry will create a clinic where practitioners from multiple disciplines provide special needs patients with dental and health care services in the same facility, thanks to a $2 million gift from the Delta Dental Foundation.
The gift funds the Delta Dental of Michigan Integrated Special Care Clinic, which will improve health care access and convenience for patients with developmental disabilities, cognitive impairments, complex medical problems, significant medical limitations, veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, and the vulnerable elderly.
In addition, U-M dental, dental hygiene and graduate students will learn how to assess and manage the needs of these patients.
The clinic’s delivery model is designed so dental students, faculty and colleagues from other U-M health science schools and colleges provide care together. The goal of this interdisciplinary approach, believed to be the first of its kind in Michigan, is to enhance access and improve the quality of care for this special patient population.
“Appointments in our comprehensive care clinics may require two or three hours, something that can be difficult for patients with special needs,” said Dr. Stephen Stefanac, senior associate dean and clinical professor of dentistry.
“Patients in our new clinic will be assigned to a faculty member who will expedite care with the help of an interprofessional team representing dentistry, nursing, pharmacy and social work. Staff will be available who are experienced working with caregivers and patients with special needs. Quality care delivered with sensitivity and compassion is our primary goal.”
Dr. Laurie McCauley, dean of the School of Dentistry, thanked the Delta Dental Foundation for its generous gift.
“We are very grateful to Delta Dental Foundation. This gift will help us provide services to a group of patients whose access to oral health care is limited,” McCauley said. “Equally important is the training our dental, dental hygiene and graduate students will receive at U-M. They will be even better prepared to treat this group of patients in private practice or in public health facilities after they graduate.”
The school provides oral health care to patients as a part of its dental and dental hygiene education programs. Last year, more than 130,000 patients visited the school’s 14 clinics, including about 12,000 new patients seeking comprehensive dental care.
Design is underway for the new clinic, to be housed in existing School of Dentistry space. The clinic features a cluster of treatment rooms large enough to accommodate patients in wheelchairs, caregivers and health care professionals, and two fully enclosed “quiet rooms.”
Dr. Carol Anne Murdoch-Kinch, associate dean and clinical professor of dentistry, said the gift from Delta Dental Foundation reinforces a new Commission on Dental Accreditation standard. All graduates must be competent in assessing treatment needs and managing the oral health care of patients with special needs while collaborating with other members of the health care team.
Murdoch-Kinch said interprofessional team-based care improves patient outcomes, especially for those with complex needs.
“Increasingly, oral health care will become integrated into the overall care of patients, provided by teams of health professionals including the dental team, nurses, physicians, pharmacists and social workers, with the common goals of providing patient-centered, holistic health care,” she said.
The gift is the largest ever awarded by the Delta Dental Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Delta Dental operations in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and North Carolina.
“The Delta Dental Foundation is thrilled to partner with prestigious institutions and professionals in science, academia and the dental profession to develop new care models and cutting-edge approaches to improving access to dental care for all people, especially populations with special needs,” said Teri Battaglieri, director of the Delta Dental Foundation. “We are extraordinarily proud of this association with the University of Michigan School of Dentistry.”