An opportunity for senior dental students to treat patients outside of the school and within the community.

In acknowledging their role and responsibility toward tomorrow's practitioners, the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine (RSDM), a school within Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, devised a plan to expand its curriculum beyond dental school walls.

The concept of incorporating education within the construct of the school's satellite clinics was formalized through a three-year award granted to the school, then known as the New Jersey Dental School at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, in 1993 by the U.S. Department of Education. With this endorsement coupled with the support of the University's central administration, the school began its innovative journey.

A Brief Overview...

In 1993-94, faculty and student advisory committees were established to work with CODE steering committee to develop and implement the CODE curriculum and design an assessment plan. A new course, "Dentistry in the Community" was developed and approved.

In 1994-95, as the introductory pilot program, ten senior students were placed in one of the existing dental centers operating under the dental school's Statewide Network for Community Oral Health Care. In this environment, students delivered general dental care to underserved populations during one-month rotations under site-based faculty supervision.

Since 1995, anywhere from five to fifteen students have been placed in community-based sites, each of which is located in an underserved area about 90-120 miles from dental school. Here students work in simulated private practice settings with trained faculty and staff, utilize computer-based scheduling, analyze expense/income, time/productivity, and expense/productivity ratios, manage staff, control the appointment book and inventory, and become involved in infection control and hazard communication standards.

These senior students attend RSDM one day a week for their didactic classes, seminars and specialty rotations. During the other days they see patients at the sites under faculty supervision and are involved in community service projects. The installation of video conferencing equipment connects all the sites to the dental school. The students and faculty are able to communicate, consult, and receive lectures and seminars without leaving their assigned CODE site.

A National Model

Many dentists and dental educators agree that dental education is at a crossroads. The innovative CODE program holds the promise of educating tomorrow's dentists in an effective, non-traditional setting while delivering quality oral health care. It will also prepare graduates to assume leadership roles in the shaping of future healthcare policies agendas, not just in New Jersey, but nationwide.

Five Goals for Success

The Rutgers School of Dental Medicine's Community-Oriented Dental Education (CODE) program has a critical central mission: expanding the knowledge, skills and abilities of dental students while delivering care to the underserved. This mission is accomplished by educating dentists to:

  1. Be technically competent in all aspects of general dentistry.
    The primary objective of dental education is to create knowledgeable, technically competent practitioners; yet in a tradition curriculum, there are a number of barriers to the full development of these skills. In a fully operational community-based oral health facility, dental students can see more patients under the supervision of trained faculty.
  2. Be actively involved in community service projects.
    Although dental students take courses in community dentistry, that knowledge is rarely applied in a dental school context. In a community healthcare center setting, the knowledge can be more readily applied since sites are already involved in community activities and partnerships.
  3. Develop practice management skills.
    The structure of the extramural sites, the number of patients seen, close interaction with faculty and auxiliary personnel and the scope of the activities inherent in a functioning teaching practice more closely resemble experiences encountered in private practice settings.
  4. Respond to community needs for improving access to affordable oral healthcare.
    Tying the CODE program in with the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine's unique outreach program, the Statewide Network for Community Oral Health Care, provides the opportunity to positively affect the values and attitudes of students toward community needs and access to care issues.
  5. Recognize the available dental practice career opportunities in public service.
    Working in a community healthcare facility exposes students to a variety of career opportunities, both private and public.

Community-Oriented Dental Education (CODE)

Cecile A. Feldman, D.M.D., M.B.A., Dean

Kim Fenesy, D.M.D.,Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

Michael Conte, D.M.D., M.P.H., Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs

Jill A. York, D.D.S., M.A.S., Assistant Dean for Extramural Clinics