Congratulations to Our Inaugural Class of Community Dental Health Coordinators
On Friday, September 9, Zufall Health honored its inaugural cohort of Community Dental Health Coordinators (CDHCs) in a graduation ceremony. The hybrid in-person/virtual celebration held in Zufall’s Dover headquarters capped a one-year program led by Zufall Chief Dental Officer Sam Wakim, DMD, MPH.
Developed by the American Dental Association and initiated in 2007, the CDHC program trains dental professionals and other health professionals to improve access to oral health care. As reported by the Journal of the American Medical Association, some patients “need help with their social problems, connections to available resources in the community, transportation to medical visits, and translation of the increasingly complex language of medicine into terms they can understand and follow.” Trained CDHCs employ community-based interventions to overcome the social determinants of health that stand in the way of people achieving optimal oral health.
“The training is the first of its kind in New Jersey and the first based at a community health center,” Wakim said. “We wholeheartedly congratulate our graduates for recognizing the need to help patients navigate a complex system.”
“You all are truly pioneers,” said Jane Grover, DDS, MPH, Director, Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention for the ADA, in her virtual remarks to the graduates. “We hear and read about medical-dental collaboration; who are the professionals who can really serve as the bridge to the dental world that so few people understand?…This is where you all come in.”
Zufall discovered the value of the CDHC curriculum when several employees completed the training at Rio Salada College in Tempe, AZ in 2019. Thereafter, the Dental Department hired two graduates as CDHCs, who have been vital to the success of several dental-medical integration initiatives, including increasing human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations among Zufall patients to reduce their risk of oropharyngeal cancer, a cancer in the oropharynx (area of the throat behind the mouth).
Zufall’s 11 CDHC graduates for the class of 2022, who reside across the U.S., completed virtual learning modules as well as individual community-based projects. CDHC faculty Antonella Maietta, DMD, and JoJo Magno, announced the names of the graduates and shared accomplishments from their community projects. Some of our CDHCs’ impressive community endeavors included:
- Collaborating with public health offices in Maine to increase the oral health workforce to work toward making dental screenings available in every public school in the state
- Providing education to and facilitating appointment scheduling for Zufall patients with uncontrolled diabetes, yielding an improvement in A1C levels for all participants
- Establishing regular dental care for people experiencing homelessness in Michigan
- Managing dental care and BMI evaluation for overweight and obese Zufall patients
The graduates and their guests were also fortunate to hear from Zufall President and Chief Executive Officer Eva Turbiner; LIBERTY Dental Plan Northeast Region President Anne Weeks; Dover Mayor Carolyn Blackman; New Jersey Assemblywoman Aura K. Dunn (R-25); and the New Jersey Department of Health’s Assistant Commissioner, Community Health Division, Nashon Hornsby, JD, LLM.
Zufall is grateful to the American Dental Association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, LIBERTY Dental Plan, and the New Jersey Department of Health for making the CDHC program’s first year possible. Thanks to their ongoing support, Zufall’s CDHC class of 2023 will begin their studies on September 20.