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Dental and Medical Schools offer combined degree

Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012

Updated: Thursday, December 6, 2012 08:12

 

The Tufts School of Dental Medicine and the School of Medicine have launched a new combined degree program in dental medicine and public health policy, which will enable current students to graduate with a joint Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) and Master of Public Health (MPH) degree.

“The great interest in the program reflects the need for public health dentists and Tufts’ emphasis on active citizenship,” Wanda Wright, assistant professor of public health and community service at the Dental School and program director of the new DMD/MPH program, said.

The program focuses on providing comprehensive, interdisciplinary training to address dental health needs on a community-wide level through the development of policy and services aimed at oral health improvements, according to Mark Nehring, chair of the Department of Public Health and Community Service at the Dental School.

“The goal of the proposed combined DMD/MPH program is to recruit and retain a diverse and competent dental public health workforce that can help to reduce oral health disparities and improve understanding of the health care needs of disadvantaged populations,” he said.

Aviva Must, dean of the Public Health and Professional Degree Programs and chair of the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine at the Medical School, said that the program combines the strengths of the two Boston campus schools.

“The DMD/MPH program brings together Tufts University School of Dental Medicine’s expertise in providing community-based dental education and Tufts University School of Medicine’s dedication to providing public health training to health professionals,” Must said.

The program gives students who are interested in both dentistry and public health issues the opportunity to earn the degrees in less time than it would take to successively enroll in two separate programs. 

“The DMD/MPH program enables dental students to begin their MPH coursework during the first or third year of dental school and complete the degree with an additional one-half year or one year of study,” Wright said.

Nehring said that there was increasing student demand for such a program, which is the 14th combined degree program offered on the Boston campus, according to a press release. 

The decision to implement the degree program was also influenced by rising awareness about inequalities in access to oral health care around the world, Nehring said, as well as a shortage of dentistry professionals with public health training.

The importance of merging dental and public health studies is underlined in a 2003 Report of the U.S. Surgeon General entitled “National Call to Action to Promote Oral Health,” which demonstrates that poor dental health is rampant among underprivileged populations. 

“[The report] highlighted the role of oral health as an essential component in overall health and urged public health professionals to increase affordability and accessibility of oral health care to underserved populations,” Nehring said.

  Nehring added that Tufts is in the unique position of responding to this call to action. 

“Tufts University, its dental school and its medical school all have mission statements [that] demonstrate a strong commitment to public health and community service,” he said.

Qualified candidates are invited to apply to the program after matriculating at the Dental School or during their second year at the Medical School, according to Wright.

Now in its first semester, the program has three students enrolled, but Wright said that she expects the number of participants to be between eight and 10 students in the future.

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