Dean Lloyd on dentistry in underserved communities

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Dear Colleagues:

Although there are many ideas about the best way to improve access to health care, one fact is indisputable: The person who is most likely to provide health care in an under-served community is a person who is from that under-served community.

To capitalize on this fact, our College of Dentistry recently reached out to the citizens of Noble County. We hosted an exhibit booth at their county fair to promote careers in dentistry. For three days, our admissions staff and faculty gave out literature, tooth brushes, and other items to adults and children who stopped by the booth. We also answered questions – all sorts of questions about all sorts of things related to dentistry.

We chose Noble County because it is the only county in Ohio with no dentists in residence. There’s a public health clinic in Caldwell, the county seat, and there’s a dental clinic at the Noble Correctional Institution, but there are no dentists who live in the county and there are no private dental practices there.

Our goal at the fair was to get parents, children, high school students, and even grandparents to think about dentistry as a career for themselves, their daughter or son, or their grandchildren. We also wanted to make sure that everyone who stopped by our booth would know that oral health means brushing your teeth daily and seeing a dentist regularly. And oral health supports overall good health and well-being.

On the afternoon that I helped out at the booth, I was so pleased to hear people say, “Hey, look! It’s Ohio State!” Or, “Wow, you came all the way out here. We’ve never had anyone here from OSU.” People were clearly happy to see us there, and I could tell they felt special because we came to be a part of their county fair.

While we were there, we made contact with more than 350 people. For many of them, this was just a chance to get a free toothbrush. For others, it was an opportunity to learn more about their own dental care. But for a small group, it was a time to be inspired. Yes, I do believe we inspired some of those who stopped by to talk with us. They may not become dental hygienists or dentists themselves, but they may encourage someone else to consider a career in dentistry.

Confident as I am that we had an impact on the people we met in Noble County, I look forward to the day when I will meet some dental or dental hygiene students who tell me that they talked with someone from our college at the county fair in the summer of 2014, and that they’re going back home to practice after they graduate. I know it will happen. It’s just a matter of time!

— Patrick Lloyd

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