The unique and innovate clinical education partnership with a well-established community health center in St. Louis is consistent with the mission and goals of A.T. Still University’s Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Heath (ATSU-MOSDOH). Partnering with Affinia Healthcare, formerly Grace Hill Health Center, is the foundation of MOSDOH’s clinical education experience and provides a unique framework for advancing innovation in dental education.
Affinia Healthcare’s mission “to provide high quality healthcare and exceptional service while promoting healthy lifestyles” aligns well with the University’s mission. Affinia Healthcare manages and provides professionally directed primary and preventive healthcare through four full-time community health centers serving the indigent population in the City of Saint Louis and surrounding areas. Affinia Healthcare sites include Murphy- O’Fallon Health Center and Water Tower Health Center on the city’s north side; and Affinia South Health Center and Soulard-Benton Health Center on the south side of Saint Louis.
Affinia Healthcare health centers have a large number of bilingual (English and Spanish) staff and provide interpretation services for non-English speaking patients. In 2012, a little over 8% of their patients were best served in a language other than English. These patients include immigrants, refugees, and undocumented residents. During 2012, Affinia Healthcare provided health services to nearly 47,000 individual patients of whom 92% had income at or under 100% of federal poverty guidelines. In 2012, 65% of patients had no health insurance, 36% received Medicaid, 4% received Medicare, and 12% were homeless.
An adequate pool of dental patients offering students an opportunity to provide comprehensive treatment is of paramount importance, especially for a new dental school. The partnership with Affinia Healthcare will provide an immediate benefit to ATSU-MOSDOH students, and it will enhance students’ educational experience by offering access to a large, diverse patient pool. In particular, students will have access to underserved communities within Affinia Healthcare’s service area and help them prepare to become providers for this population. Currently, Affinia Healthcare has approximately 14,000 dental patients and another 35,000 medical patients from which ATSU-MOSDOH students could provide comprehensive dental care. Federally Qualified Health Centers in the greater St. Louis area are at capacity, with most patients waiting up to 10 weeks to obtain a non-urgent appointment. Working in partnership, ATSU-MOSDOH and Affinia Healthcare are poised to make a positive impact within St. Louis.