December 8, 2016
Third-year UIC College of Dentistry students Gabija Revis and Jessica Williams were invited to attend the Symposium on Oral Health and Primary Care sponsored by the National Interprofessional Initiative on Oral Health (NIIOH). They were invited because they both are Schweitzer Fellows, and their projects deal with the symposium’s focus on the integration of primary care and oral health.
Revis called the symposium “a great opportunity to meet a diverse group of industry leaders—doctors, dentists, nurses, physician’s assistants, insurance representatives, and policymakers—as they joined together to tackle one of the most relevant and current health issues in oral health.”
“Gabi and I have an unwavering interest in public health dentistry,” Williams said. “Attending this conference served to build upon our current knowledge of public health issues in our field, this time with an interprofessional lens.”
“Currently, there are very few systems in place that are incorporating oral health into the primary care setting,” Revis added. “Very few primary care professionals complete screenings, have a referral network set up with local dentists, or even consider applying fluoride to their patients. I learned a lot at this symposium about how that integration can be achieved.’
“We brainstormed with doctors, physician assistants, social workers, community health workers, CEOs, and more about how to integrate oral health into primary care,” Williams said. “It was unique and inspiring. Most importantly, I learned about the importance of teamwork, intraprofessionally and interprofessionally, and how these interactions are integral to improving our patients’ health outcomes and overall well-being.”
“It just seems to me that the next logical step is for oral health to be permanently integrated into a primary care setting,” Revis said. “The NIIOH is working on multiple levels to achieve that—through educating a workforce of medical professionals on the oral health needs of their population and through educating everyone on the changes that need to take place in order for seamless referral from a primary care setting to a dental setting.”
“I expected dentists to be in the majority at this meeting since the focus is oral health, but it was the exact opposite,” Williams noted. “Therefore, it was surprising to be surrounded by so many non-dentists who are passionate about and dedicated to improving positive oral health outcomes. I did not have to convince anyone that oral health is an important matter.”
“Our school has already made great strides towards integrating professionals—specifically, the UIC College of Nursing and the College of Dentistry just began a partnership that brings nurse practitioner students to the UIC College of Dentistry each week to shadow urgent care appointment—but I think we can do more to demonstrate That we are interested in interprofessional collaboration as well,” Revis said.
“The members of NIIOH highly valued our input,” Williams noted. “I think by attending this conference as a UIC dental student, the College gains a reputation as an institution which values interprofessional work and dental public health. We also get to share the community based experiences and interprofessional activities we have available at UIC on a national stage.”
Revis also is pursuing a Master’s in Public Health in Health Policy and Administration through the UIC School of Public Health, and feels the symposium helped her “understanding the forces at play involved in networking and lobbying an important health issue.”
Williams plans to work in public health dentistry, and noted that she was “glad we had the opportunity to be at the forefront of this national discussion” on oral health and primary care.
Photo caption: Jessica Williams, Dr. Ralph Fuccillo, and Gabija Revis at the Symposium on Oral Health and Primary Care.