The LSU Health Science Center Shreveport is collaborating with the LSU New Orleans School of Dentistry to expand the Community Based Dentistry Service Program. The program provides access to oral health care to underserved and rural parishes across the state of Louisiana.
The one-year program allows general practice residents to learn and practice dentistry within both hospital and clinic settings.
Dr. G.E. Ghali, who is the Chancellor of the LSU Health Science Center in Shreveport, said the general practice residents will rotate to partnering Federally Qualified Health Clinics, rural clinics and hospitals to benefit residents in the 64 underserved parishes throughout Louisiana.
“Many of these clinics are already equipped for general dental care with dental chairs and X-Ray machines and dental hygienists,” Ghali said. “They just don't have the [doctors] to staff them.”
The program’s expansion should be completed in five years. It starts in Shreveport, expands to Monroe, Alexandria and Lake Charles and wraps up in Lafayette.
Dr. Robert Laughlin, Dean of the LSU Health New Orleans School of Dentistry, said along with this expansion, the dental school also hopes to expand funding for the rural scholars program.
The rural scholars program is a scholarship in which the dentistry student receives a tuition reimbursement. In exchange, the scholarship recipient must provide one year of dentistry service in a rural area for every year they received the scholarship.
Hannah Broussard, a third-year student at the LSU New Orleans School of Dentistry, is a recipient of this scholarship. She believes the lack of oral health care in rural areas is a real problem, and she is honored to help LSU expand its efforts to solve it.
“Your oral health can affect your systemic health, nutrition, and your overall quality of life and confidence,” Broussard said. “It’s definitely a problem that we’ve recognized, and it’s really great that we have the rural scholars program to try to provide a solution to that issue. I’m happy to be a part of that solution.”
Dr. Laughlin said that no one else in the state is better suited to handle this issue, and that as the dean, he feels as though it is his personal responsibility to improve oral health care services for residents across the state.
“It’s an honor to be able to push this forward and get ourselves in a place where the state of Louisiana could lead oral health care in the country,” Laughlin said. “How great would that be?”
Because of the collaboration and hard work of the LSU Health Science Center and the LSU New Orleans School of Dentistry, there are a lot of hand in the mix of the expansion, but the goal is simple.
“We’re just trying to bring smiles to everybody in Louisiana,” Laughlin said.