Missouri College Dental Hygiene Program Reaches Out To Hispanic Population

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New "Medical Spanish" Program Developed Jointly with Saint Louis University to Help Healthcare Professionals Better Communicate

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Our partnership with Missouri College in developing the Medical Spanish course can definitely lead to better outcomes for Spanish-speaking patients

Students in the new Dental Hygiene Education program at Missouri College are learning more than how to clean teeth, take X-rays and address oral health issues. They will also be taught to speak "Medical Spanish" in an effort to prepare them to communicate with the growing Hispanic population locally and nationwide. The Spanish for Healthcare Professionals coursework is a new joint academic program developed by Missouri College and Saint Louis University (SLU) Doisy College of Health Sciences. The program is offered to health profession students at Missouri College and to Doisy College, Nursing, School of Medicine and Public Health students at SLU.

Patients who primarily speak Spanish are a population at risk for health issues for several reasons: lack of education about preventive health care, lack of insurance, and language barriers. According to Hubert Benitez, DDS, director of the Dental Hygiene Education program, "The quality of the medical encounter is severely hampered by language barriers for Spanish-speaking patients. When the dentist or hygienist cannot communicate with the patient, this leads to confusion and misunderstanding, which can actually be dangerous to the patient's health."

"Our partnership with Missouri College in developing the Medical Spanish course can definitely lead to better outcomes for Spanish-speaking patients," said Dr. Charlotte Royeen, PhD, Dean of the Doisy College of Health Sciences. "We understand the need to eliminate health disparities and build partnerships to enhance education and service."

Benitez, who is of Hispanic heritage, is passionate about improving dental care for Hispanic patients. He is working closely with neighborhood groups and business districts in South St. Louis, which have large population of Spanish speaking people, to understand their needs. Benitez has developed a partnership with a parochial school, Santa Cecilia, to offer free oral exams to students and parents, and to provide oral hygiene education including brushing and flossing techniques starting on Saturday, September 26. Follow-up visits at Missouri College's dental clinic for X-rays, periodontal treatments and cleanings will also be offered free to qualified low-income patients. (See page 2 for a list of dates Missouri College students will visit Santa Cecilia.)

Missouri College is opening a free dental clinic at its campus in Brentwood in November that will serve qualified, low-income individuals. Dental hygiene students will work in the clinic under the supervision of dentists and dental hygiene faculty members.

"We want to make a difference in the community, and this program offers our students a great opportunity to use their new skills to help an underserved population," Benitez said. "Community service is a foundation of our curriculum at Missouri College and our students have expressed great interest in working with the families at Santa Cecilia."

The Dental Hygiene Education program at Missouri College was launched in April, 2009. A financial investment from Career Education Corporation (the parent company of Missouri College) of more than $800,000 ensures the operation and sustainability of the program that will provide oral health education and healthcare services for the Greater St. Louis area. The new program is separate from a Dental Assistant degree program which the College has operated for more than 30 years.

Visits to Santa Cecilia School:

  •     Saturday, September 26, 2009: Missouri College Dental Hygiene students at "Feria de la Salud" school festival from 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m., to provide information about the clinic, services, scheduling, dental sealant program, and general information on oral health.
  •     Saturday, October 3, 2009 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.: First Oral Health Screening (Pre-School to 2nd grade students and parents)
  •     Saturday, October 17, 2009 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.: Second Oral Health Screening (3rd grade to 5th grade students and parents)
  •     Saturday, November 14, 2009 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.: Third Oral Health Screening (5th grade to 8th grade students and parents)

Editor's note: Media may attend above events if advance notification is provided. Please contact Terri Waters at 314-991-4641, ext. 102.

About Missouri College
Since 1963, Missouri College in St. Louis, Missouri, has given students the opportunity to obtain innovative, career-oriented training. Missouri College does not guarantee employment or salary. The school has diploma, specialized associate and bachelor degree level programs in the Healthcare and Business Areas, with a focus on Dental, Healthcare, Massage Therapy and Management fields. Missouri College is accredited by Accrediting Council for Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) and the Dental Assistant and Dental Hygiene programs are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. The Commission is a specialized accrediting body recognized by the United States Department of Education. Missouri College is a member of the Career Education Corporation (NASDAQ:CECO) network of universities, colleges and schools.

About Saint Louis University--Doisy College of Health Sciences
Long a leader in educating health professionals, Saint Louis University offered its first degree in an allied health profession in 1929. Today the Doisy College of Health Sciences prepares students for careers in physical therapy and athletic training, clinical laboratory science and cytotechnology, nutrition and dietetics, health informatics and information management, medical imaging and radiation therapeutics, occupational science and occupational therapy and as physician assistants. The college's unique curriculum prepares students to work with health professionals from all disciplines to ensure the best possible patient care.

Terri Waters
(314) 991-4641, ext. 102

Stephanie Collins-Batson
Saint Louis University

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