Pharmacy, Dental Students Collaborate in Clinic

Jesse Varoz and Brittany Stevens in Dental Clinic at CreightonCollaboration between dental and Pharm.D. students is currently underway in the School of Dentistry clinic. Pharmacy students have the option of completing one of the required five-week ambulatory care rotations in the clinic. They will interact with dental students in the clinic, underscoring what strengths pharmacists can bring to a dental practice.

“Oral health and disease state go hand-in-hand,” says Kalin Johnson, PharmD’12, BSHS’12, assistant professor of pharmacy practice/diagnostic sciences. Patients visiting the dental clinic often have complex medical histories or chronic disease states, Johnson says. Pharm.D. and dental students working in tandem, identifying patient concerns and reviewing their medications, results in better overall health care.

Such collaboration already exists between the Schools of Dentistry and Medicine, Shaner says. Dentists can play a significant role in the early detection of head, neck or oral cancer during regular exams. Professors from the School of Medicine have worked with dental students to help them identify signs of neck and head cancer.

At Creighton's dental clinic, many of the patients are on fixed incomes. They are often retirees who are on multiple medications prescribed by multiple specialists to treat multiple chronic diseases, and these specialists may be unaware of what prescriptions their patients are taking. Having a pharmacy student available when complete medical histories are taken helps address these oversights. It’s another layer of checks and balances.

“When health care professionals work in a team environment, outcomes for patients improve,” says John Shaner, DMD, diagnostic sciences department chair and associate professor at the Creighton School of Dentistry. It's a win both for students' educational experience and patients' overall health.

With multiple health sciences schools on one campus, Creighton's is known for innovative approaches to interprofessional education such as this initiative.

Story from The Creighton Dentist newsletter, with reporting by Rick Davis and Sheila Swanson, Creighton University Office of Marketing and Communications. Photo credit: Jim Fackler