Making a Difference: Community Service Around the Globe

A child gets screened during a mission to border towns in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

RSDM is an invaluable public health resource, improving the lives of underserved patients around the globe and in our own backyard.

We help those who’ve never visited a dentist or used a toothbrush because they couldn’t afford one. We relieve pain and restore smiles for patients with little or no access to oral healthcare. In turn, our students are transformed by working to equalize local and international healthcare disparities. All are required to complete a four-hour minimum of community service.

RSDM students and faculty make annual trips to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Since 2004, they’ve also travel to a Native American reservation in Arizona to staff a federally run dental clinic, while dentist there are on vacation. To prepare, students learn about Native American culture so they can offer the best treatment.

At home in our Newark and South Jersey clinics, students and faculty see daily evidence that they’re improving the lives of patients and their communities. RSDM is one of the few oral healthcare providers in New Jersey that accepts Medicaid, which covers nearly half of our patients. Many live in Newark, where 30 percent of residents live below the poverty level.

At our Community-Oriented Dental (CODE) program in South Jersey, fourth-year students also treat many disadvantaged patients. For more than 20 years, we’ve been leaders in dental treatment for HIV/AIDS patients. Since 2002, we’ve received federal Ryan White funding for patients in underserved regions.

Each year, we participate in Give Kids a Smile Day, when we offer free health screenings, dental sealants and oral health educational tips to Essex County children, some of whom are underserved. In 2017, the American Dental Association marked the anniversary of GKAS, a nationwide event, by choosing RSDM as a host to the celebration. In 2016, we received nearly $2 million in federal funding for an interdisciplinary program that enables students to provide oral health screening at Rutgers Community Health Center in Newark. They work with student nurses, pharmacists, social workers and others. The program, in its third year, served 74 patients last year, including 47 who were referred to RSDM dental clinics.