Minnesota to Become First U.S. Dental School to Educate Dental Therapists
The University of Minnesota will become the first dental school in the nation to educate midlevel providers, called dental therapists, who will care for underserved patient populations in the state. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty signed legislation on May 16 that delineates the education, supervision and scope of practice requirements for dental therapists, who will be licensed to practice in Minnesota no sooner than 2011.
On May 21, Dean Patrick Lloyd addressed the students, staff and faculty of the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry to explain the specifics of the new legislation. He discussed the School of Dentistry's role as a resource to the state about issues related to oral health, dental education and the delivery of oral health services. He also reviewed the contributions of faculty experts in pediatric dentistry, dental hygiene, community oral health, operative dentistry and academic affairs who developed the rigorous didactic and clinical curriculum for dental therapy students.
He also noted that the school’s participation was consistent with the mission and vision of the University of Minnesota and its Academic Health Center, as expressed in these three principles from the AHC Vision:
- Create and prepare new health professionals for Minnesota;
- Develop and provide new models of health promotion and care for Minnesota;
- Reduce health disparities in Minnesota and address the needs of the state's diverse populations.
The dental school will offer two educational programs for dental therapists, a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree program. Curriculum for the two programs – which will enroll no more than a total of 10 students beginning in Fall, 2009 – was approved by the U-M Board of Regents in February. Faculty recruitment and facilities enhancements will take place during the summer.
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