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ATSU-ASDOH awarded HRSA grant to improve oral healthcare access

A.T. Still University’s Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-ASDOH) has received a $994,817 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for its project aimed at strengthening the dental faculty workforce and improving access to quality oral healthcare for vulnerable populations, Supporting a Faculty Workforce to Prepare Compassionate Community-Minded Oral Health Healers. This collaborative endeavor engages primary care programs at two ATSU sister schools – ATSU’s School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona and ATSU’s Arizona School of Health Sciences Physician Assistant program – and numerous federally qualified health center training partners.

Shortages of dental health professionals are pervasive, especially among rural and low-income populations who experience disproportionate difficulty accessing oral health services due to financial, geographic, and transportation barriers, while ATSU-ASDOH’s existing faculty shortages impact the ability to provide comprehensive training to its 312-person student body. With a track record of graduating primary care dentists who serve the most vulnerable and underserved patients, ATSU-ASDOH seeks to attract dental faculty to educate compassionate, community-minded oral health providers. HRSA Dental Faculty Loan Repayment Program (LRP) funding is a catalyst for ATSU-ASDOH to secure and retain oral health educators for its campus in Mesa, Arizona. 

Over a five-year period, ATSU-ASDOH will launch and sustain an LRP to improve diversity and supply of the dental faculty workforce, prioritizing those from rural and disadvantaged backgrounds, impacting up to three full-time LRP recipients from the general dentistry, pediatric dentistry, and dental public health disciplines. The School will coordinate faculty development, mentoring, and training to retain and strengthen the teaching skills of those recipients, and evaluate and disseminate outcomes and work to promote sustainability of successful recruitment, retention, and faculty development strategies. 

Establishing an LRP will enable ATSU-ASDOH to better secure and retain full-time clinical faculty who are deeply immersed in educating community-minded oral health healers. With state-of-the-art clinical facilities, a culture conducive to scholarly activity and wellbeing, and passionate student dentists, ATSU-ASDOH is well-positioned to nurture and retain oral health educators via abundant faculty development opportunities, scholarly support services, and generous leave and benefits policies, emphasizing personal and professional wellbeing. 

Wayne Cottam, DMD, MS, vice dean, serves as project director. Robert Trombly, DDS, JD, dean, is the deputy director.

REQUIRED STATEMENT: This Dental Faculty Loan Repayment project, Federal Award Identification Number (FAIN) D8743533, is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $994,817 with 0% financed with nongovernmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.

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