The Harvard School of Dental Medicine launched a new dental residency program in New Hampshire this fall focusing on oral health care for rural and underserved populations.
The program is a collaboration between Harvard, the Bi-State Primary Care Association, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, and six other rural care providers in the state.
There are currently no dental schools or residency programs in New Hampshire, which faces a dentist shortage with demand increasing under a new state program that expands adult dental benefits.
Stephanie Pagliuca, the director of workforce development and recruitment at the Bi-State Primary Care Association, said the new Harvard dental residency program has been in the works for more than 15 years and has involved “a lot of stakeholders coming to the table.”
Pagliuca said the pandemic worsened the dentist shortage in rural areas.
“They want to train these residents, but they don’t have enough dental assistants,” she said of New Hampshire dentists. “The oral health needs — and the overall health needs — of the patients in their communities are very high at a time when it’s very difficult to hire people into the health care workforce.”
The new residency program consists of two separate programs: the Advanced Education in General Dentistry and the Dental Public Health programs. Christine Ann Riedy Murphy, an associate professor of oral health policy and epidemiology at Harvard, said the school wanted to create a program that could provide post-doctoral training in both general dentistry and public health.
“The long-term goal really is … to expand the workforce who would likely practice in community health centers or in rural areas,” she said.
Pagliuca said she is optimistic about the new program.
“I just want to show young dentists who are interested in learning about public health and learning about rural populations that New Hampshire is a great place to do this work,” she said. “I’m just really excited about the fact that residents can find meaningful practice opportunities and enhance their skills, and find a place that they might want to settle for the long term.”
The first cohort of the AEGD program began on Sept. 1.
“Not only are we hoping to train providers to care for their patients in a patient-centered manner, but that the patients then will be getting great care that actually speaks to them and is what they need,” Riedy said.
—Staff writer Krishi Kishore can be reached at email@example.com