Social Responsibility

DOCS clinic at Memorial Boys and Girls Club

Taking learning to the community

Dr. Les Kalman, assistant professor, wants students at Schulich Dentistry to understand that dental care isn’t just about treating a tooth, it’s a about looking after the patient and the community at large.

With this in mind, faculty members and students at the School are forging meaningful connections to local, regional and international communities through a number of ongoing initiatives and programs. Community partnerships with local agencies and health care partners provide real-world context to the knowledge and skills gained in the classroom and on-campus clinic.

Learners participate in a number of hands-on community experiences, including DocsKids, a student-led program that provides preventative oral health care education for children 18 years and younger in the London area; community paediatric clinic rotations, a recent addition to the third-year curriculum that requires students to spend two full days shadowing and observing in a dental practice; and international opportunities during the summer months in Asia, Africa and South America.

These varied experiences build a sense of social responsibility and enhanced understanding of diverse cultures and communities.

The Dental Outreach Community Service (DOCS) program and Moose Factory student electives are examples of how Schulich Dentistry faculty and students incorporate and engage communities in dental education.

Dental Outreach Community Service

Each year, fourth-year students at Schulich Dentistry participate in the Dental Outreach Community Service (DOCS) program.

“We want them to realize that as dentists, they have a responsibility to serve the community. That might mean volunteering their time through outreach, doing reduced-rate or pro-bono work for those who have barriers to dental care, or giving back in other ways,” said Dr. Kalman, a professor at Schulich Dentistry and the program lead for the DOCS program.

DOCS is a London-based program bringing dental students and private practice dentist volunteers out into the community to provide free consultation to underserviced and marginalized populations with the aim of providing care to those who have no other economic means for access to dentistry. Each year, they see between 200 and 250 patients.

Dr. Andy Shih, DDS'13, says this helps students to have a full appreciation of the need right here in our own community. Dr. Shih began his involvement in DOCS as a student at Schulich Dentistry and now maintains his connection as a volunteer dentist and instructor as part of the program.

“As a student, DOCS really taught every one of us to be compassionate and caring toward any type of person; if they have a disability or have a financial struggle, that shouldn’t be a barrier to their care,” he said. “It gave us an opportunity to reach out to those communities and it gave us a great sense of social responsibility that we as practitioners have in our communities.”

Northern Outreach Program in Moose Factory, Ontario

“Sharing my skills in a community that may have limited access to oral health care reminds me of why I wanted to be a dentist in the first place,” said Ashley Brown, Dentistry Class of 2018.  

Brown is one of six fourth-year dental students participating in the Northern Outreach Program in Moose Factory, Ontario this year.

The annual elective program enables senior students to spend two weeks providing hospital-based dentistry to patients in the remote and underserviced community.

Weeneenbayko HospitalThe visiting students work five days per week at Weeneenbayko Hospital’s dental clinic, providing care for four to six patients daily The clinic serves children and adult patients from Moose Factory, Moosonee and smaller communities along the southwestern coast of Hudson Bay. Dental services include operative, endodontic and oral surgery, as well as conscious sedation for more anxious patients.

“This was an eye-opening and unique opportunity to grow and learn as a future dentist,” explained Carolyn Karr, Dentistry Class of 2018, who completed her two-week rotation in the fall. “I was able to get a better sense of what working in a practice might be like, improve my efficiency and time-management skills, and experience a different patient population. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn and give back, and will certainly impact the way I see and treat patients in the future.”

Brown also recognizes the impact this type of experience has on her dental education. “By interacting with local dentists and community members, dental students gain unique knowledge and skill sets,” she said. “This is why volunteering and community involvement is a priority for me.”

“Oral health care is relevant to everyone, and it is critical that everyone gets the care they need and deserve,” added Karr.