UNM Dental Hygiene Program Accredited With Perfect Marks

            Years of improvements designed to rescue the UNM Dental Hygiene Program from the axe have culminated in full accreditation status from the Commission on Dental Accreditation.

            Following its extensive review, the commission gave the UNM program two commendations for curricular excellency and administrative/faculty excellencies and had no recommendations or suggestions for improvement. The review places the UNM program among the top ranking schools in the nation. 

            This achievement is particularly satisfying given that the program was slated for termination seven years ago, said Demetra Logothetis, program director.

"Utilizing the support they received from the UNM Department of Surgery and the UNM School of Medicine, Dental Hygiene faculty were able to bring a program back from the brink of extinction and create a program of distinction," Logothetis said.

            Budgetary as well as administrative concerns prompted the leaders at the UNM Health Sciences Center to consider eliminating the Dental Hygiene Program. Faculty created an ambitious plan to save the program, primarily by generating income to supplement the state budget.

The solution was a community dental clinic, staffed by faculty dentists and hygienists, which charges fees comparable to local private offices and clinics. The clinic also accepts all forms of Medicaid.

Each faculty member now commits one full day per week to providing patients with dental hygiene and other dental services. Additional revenue comes from an in-house dentist who provides restorative care for patients referred from the student and faculty clinics.

Encouraged by the success of its in-house operations, the program expanded its services to a satellite clinic in the Southeast Heights and assumed operation of the dental clinic at Carrie Tingley Hospital. 

The reach of the Dental Hygiene Program at UNM now extends statewide, with students working with more than 300 organizations including schools, day care and preschool programs, long term care facilities, diabetes and cancer support groups, prisons and military bases.  Students provide dental health education, dental screenings and clinical dental hygiene services.

"These activities provide New Mexicans with necessary preventive health education and treatment and give students with "real life" educational and clinical experiences," said Logothetis.

Overhaul of the program also included changes to its degree programs: the Associate of Science degree was eliminated in 1998 in favor of Bachelor of Science degree, and courses in the Degree Completion Program for associate degree-level dental hygienists who want to complete their Bachelor of Science degree became available online.

A Master of Science in Dental Hygiene program will start in Fall 2003. The program also has initiated a series of Continuing Dental Education courses for dental professionals and educators across the country. 

To rebuild the program, faculty took advantage of its affiliation with the UNM School of Medicine's Department of Surgery, said Logothetis. The UNM Dental Hygiene Program is the only dental hygiene program in the United States housed within a medical school.

"This creates unique opportunities for interdisciplinary education and practice for dental hygiene students and opportunities for interaction between medical students and others from the Health Sciences Center," she said.

The Commission on Dental Accreditation serves the public by establishing, maintaining and applying standards that ensure the quality and continuous improvement of dental and dental-related education and reflect the evolving practice of dentistry. 

For more information about the UNM Dental Hygiene Program, visit http://hsc.unm.edu/som/dentalhy/

Contact: Lynn Melton, 272-3322

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