New professional program combines dental, medical education

This fall, the Case School of Dental Medicine in Cleveland is slated to start a five-year dental medical degree program that officials believe will create a new health care professional: the dentist-physician.

Unlike dual-degree programs that produce oral surgeons, Case aims to equip dentists with primary care skills, said Marsha Pyle, DDS, associate dean for education at the dental school.
The aim of Case Western Reserve University is to teach dentists primary care skills.
"I see these people as pioneers who are willing to think differently about our health care system and how health care is delivered," Dr. Pyle said. "For instance, diabetes can affect wound healing. Making sure that is under control helps in dental care."

Many people visit their dentists twice a year, but they may not routinely visit their physician, she said. A dentist with preventive health training could screen patients' blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. The dentist-physician would not replace the primary care physician.

Two schools have failed with similar programs, Dr. Pyle said. She anticipates the mounting evidence linking oral and general health, though, will make the Case program sustainable.

Terry Wolpaw, MD, associate dean for curricular affairs for Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, stressed that the program would not simply bounce students between two separate schools. The Case dental school and the medical school are part of the same university.

"This will be a true dual degree from the get-go," Dr. Wolpaw said. "They get admitted to both programs simultaneously, and we've worked to create a meaningful integration."

Here's an overview of the DMD-MD curriculum:
  • Year 1 -- Basic science is studied at the medical school. The head, neck, neuroanatomy and dental clinical skills are taught at the dental school.
  • Year 2 -- Basic science and dental clinical science are divided between the two schools. Students focus on oral health at the end of the year.
  • Year 3 -- Medical clerkships and clinical dental care one afternoon a week.
  • Year 4 -- Dental clinical content and dental skill development. Medical rotations one afternoon a week.
  • Year 5 -- A half-year of clinical dentistry along with core medical clerkships.
At least one year of medical residency also will be needed for graduates to become licensed in medicine.

Source: http://www.amednews.com/article/20070326/profession/303269967/7/

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