UBC and Douglas College oral health care initiative attracts local community support

January 2010

Increasing community involvement is a key priority at UBC Dentistry. In collaboration with Douglas College, the UBC Dental Hygiene Degree Program has devised a unique community service and learning project to address some of the unmet dental and oral health needs for low-income families and individuals in New Westminster.

New Westminster Map

The UBC Point Grey campus (yellow) is 30 kilometres from New Westminster (red).

The Rotary Club of New Westminster is the lead supporter of the project, with a generous funding contribution of $15,000 over three years. The TKC CNC Foundation and Dr. Norman Ferguson are also significant supporters.

Launched in September 2009, the project marries the learning needs of UBC dental hygiene students and Douglas College dental assisting students with the unmet dental needs of New Westminster residents by offering a family-oriented approach and nocost access to dental hygiene services at the Douglas College Dental Clinic.

Rather than expect interested New Westminster residents to trek out to the dental clinic at UBC for regularly scheduled Saturday morning sessions, the UBC students travel to New Westminster. “There was an overwhelmingly positive response from the community when the project launched last September, and screening appointments resulted in 49 clients accepted for dental hygiene care,” reports Bonnie Craig, professor and director of the Dental Hygiene Degree Program at UBC.

Term one of the project ran from September to December 5, 2009, and successfully supported 12 student clinic sessions. In mid-October, a volunteer dental clinic also took place at Douglas College and several clients from the dental hygiene project had restorative dental work completed by supervised UBC dental students. Term two of the dental hygiene project started in January 2010, with 10 dental hygiene student clinic sessions scheduled until April 10.

Craig understands the narrow options of publicly funded dental programs: “They are generally targeted to young children, elders in residential care and special needs clients. Availability and accessibility are difficult or non-existent for older children and adults seeking reduced-cost dental services. Any services available are limited to a few nonprofit dental clinics and a restricted number of government-funded programs.” Craig explains that the City of New Westminster has been identified as a community in need. “It’s the oldest city in western Canada and the first capital of BC, and it is exciting to have the Rotary Club of New Westminster as a lead partner in this initiative—to work with us in the community.” Until now there has not been a project providing services to those New Westminster residents who do not have the means to pay for dental care, combined with the opportunity for students to enhance their knowledge and skills.

Clients for the project were either self-referred in response to project advertising or referred by a number of different community sources, including the Elizabeth Fry Society, the Salvation Army, local food banks and day care organizations.

Douglas College Volunteer Dental Clinic

A volunteer dental clinic at Douglas College involving students from UBC.