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01 Sep 2006 | Auxiliary

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Health observance

In 2003, the University of Newcastle, renowned for its commitment to multi-disciplinary health education, identified a ‘gap’ in its educational programs. The University initiated discussions with the metropolitan dental school at the University of Adelaide to facilitate the introduction of oral health education at Newcastle. An oral health partnership was formalised at the end of 2003 and this has led to exciting developments in oral health education in NSW. Over the past two and a half years, the Discipline of Oral Health has hosted final year dental students for extended regional and rural placements. Staff of the Discipline provides teaching into programs in Medicine, Physiotherapy, Pharmacy, Speech Pathology and Nutrition & Dietetics. Continuing Education for Dental Hygienists has been delivered to acclaim. Highly respected dentists and dental hygienists have been recruited to support teaching. Most significantly, the University has introduced its Bachelor of Oral Health degree program with purpose-built clinical facilities at the Ourimbah Campus of the University. The program has received accreditation by the Australian Dental Council (ADC) and official approval by the Dental Board of NSW. On graduation, Bachelor of Oral Health students will be preventive focused practitioners capable of community and individual preventive care, health promotion, oral health research and teaching. The program has received significant support from the local dental community; consultation and collaboration have been pivotal to our success to date. As we approach the end of our second year of the new program, we have over one hundred highly motivated students, the majority of whom have taken advantage of our opportunity for career progression for dental assistants. These students have used qualifications for entry into the program and, in some cases, these qualifications have been recognized as fulfilling the requirements for elective courses within the program. We are also pleased to have several registered dental therapists currently using recognition of prior learning to accelerate their progress through the degree program. The Bachelor of Oral Health degree is based on population health theory and emphasises the common risk approach to health. In addition to preventive clinical skills, students are able to provide dietary analysis, smoking cessation counselling and complete a detailed caries and periodontal risk assessment. Throughout the program, students are working with local practitioners to develop and implement a range of oral health promotion activities, working with recognized groups at risk, including the elderly, pre-school children and the local indigenous community. The program also includes modules that relate to research, practice management and teaching with the expectation that some of our students will be motivated to follow research and teaching careers. The University has received significant support from Colgate and this has assisted us in refurbishing an existing building as a seventeen chair dental clinic. Each cubicle is networked to facilitate electronic record keeping and the use of digital radiography. Our Central Sterilising Area ensures efficiency and full compliance with all infection control guidelines and legislation. Probably the most successful elements of this initiative are the various teachers involved with our program. We are very fortunate to have recruited excellent academic staff to the Discipline and the Australian Dental Association (NSW Branch) has supported us in this direction. The importance of non-judgmental, experienced and enthusiastic tutors as mentors cannot be over emphasized and is recognized by our students. If readers would like more info on any aspect of the program, the website address is (http://ccdb.newcastle.edu.au/courseinfo). Alternatively Mrs Robyn Watson (robyn.watson@newcastle.edu.au) would be delighted to respond to queries.

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