PA Students Care for Oral Health Needs of Boston’s Homeless

Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS) PA Student Haley Rose collaborated with dental hygiene professor Lisa LaSpina, RDH, MS to develop an interprofessional, service-learning activity that served more than 75 homeless men and women in Boston, Massachusetts.

With nearly 30 volunteers, including PA and dental hygiene faculty and students, Rose coordinated three oral health clinics at the Woods-Mullen and Southampton Street shelters. During each clinic, the students learned from one another and worked collaboratively to take patient histories and blood pressures as well as provide oral care exams and fluoride varnish.

Patients also received needed dental supplies and education about the importance of oral health and hygiene. Patients with more serious oral health issues, such as abscesses, infection, etc., were referred to the local dental clinic for additional treatment.

The impact the clinics had on the community was immeasurable. “I did not expect there to be this much interest from the women and men at these shelters in getting an oral exam done. I was very excited when a woman at the shelter told me she wanted us to come back, which is why I ended up organizing a second clinic,” shared Rose.

Prior to the outreach event, the PA students received education about oral health through their didactic curriculum and a presentation from the dental hygiene students.

Rose added, “This project has not only had an impact on the local patient community, but also on the PA students and PA faculty involved. It has been extremely eye opening into how much more oral care needs to be incorporated into our exams and how we need to educate our patients on the importance of oral care.”

The student outreach was published in the MCPHS PA Alumni newsletter and the school bulletin. The program hopes to continue this interprofessional outreach to teach future PA students the importance of oral health.

This project was funded by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Oral Health Outreach grant.

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