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Newswise — BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Allen Conan Davis, DMD, a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Schools of Dentistry and Public Health, was recently appointed assistant dean for Community Collaborations and Public Health in the School of Dentistry. The appointment, made by dentistry Dean Michael Reddy, DMD, D.M.Sc., will enable the school to improve oral health through community-based education, research and service.

“Our school has strengthened its interactions with other health care delivery systems in recent years by establishing relationships with community-based health care systems across our state,” Reddy said. “We have excellent interprofessional collaborations and activities with the UAB Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Optometry, Public Health and Health Professions. Under Conan’s direction, these partnerships have been re-energized through a grant from the DentaQuest Foundation to train health professions students. His leadership will be valuable as we continue to build and maintain these and other relationships at UAB, in Birmingham and beyond in the years to come.”

Davis returned to UAB almost four years ago as the director of community collaborations and brought with him a wealth of leadership and experience in the public and private dental and public health sectors.

Davis was Alabama’s public health dental director from 1986-1999, and the American Dental Association sponsored his United States congressional fellowship from 2001-2002 when he worked for the Senate Health Committee. Davis was the chief dental officer at the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid from 2003-2010.

“Dr. Reddy is passionate about educating dental clinicians, our research efforts, our growing patient-centered clinical practice, and the role we play in our local and global communities,” Davis said. “I appreciate his confidence in me, and I believe our entire School of Dentistry team will work to continue to build upon our strengths in our community service endeavors.”

The School of Dentistry is extending its reach across Alabama to improve care for its residents in a number of ways.

The school is part of a statewide oral health coalition and has established numerous partnerships with the private dental community and other community partners, including health center clinics and public health departments.

These community collaborations give the School of Dentistry the ability to use its resources to improve the oral health of Alabamians in many areas around the state and positively shape the education of the students within the school.

“We like our students to be exposed to these types of activities and initiatives because it gives them a broader perspective,” Davis said. “Many of our students choose to do a year’s extension program with a general practice residency, and we want to provide opportunities in the state so they will stay here. By locating them in nearby areas, we hope they will choose to practice in these areas, too.”

General dental practice residency programs are also being planned in areas around Alabama, including Florence, where the first program is being considered. Other potential sites include Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Dothan and Mobile.

The school has secured several grants to improve oral health in Alabama and is applying for more to continue widening its scope. The school also hopes to improve access to oral health in Alabama through an oral health workforce improvement grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration.

The concept of the HRSA grant is to work in partnership with the Alabama Dental Association to place dentists in areas of need around the state and provide them a financial incentive to practice in these areas. Alabama provides coverage for oral health care for children through Medicaid; because of that, these dental practices would be required to see a certain percentage of Medicaid patients and remain in the same location for at least four years. Davis says the school wants to select dentists who desire to take care of low-income people and work in needy rural areas through this program, in part because Alabama does not provide dental coverage for adults under Medicaid.

“There are poor adults in Alabama who don’t have adequate access to care, and we have a major concern about that because research shows poor oral health can lead to other serious health complications,” Davis said. “We hope to eventually change this situation, and we want to encourage our students to be leaders in such efforts.”

Students had hands-on experience with this type of endeavor last fall when the school hosted its first UAB Dentistry Cares Day. More than 500 volunteers provided care for almost 350 Birmingham-area homeless and low-income residents.

This year’s event is scheduled for Nov. 5, with plans to include additional partner clinic sites around the city.

“There is a lot of work to be done in Alabama,” Davis said. “We want to do our part to educate our residents and train the next generation of dentists to continue to implement these and other innovative programs while providing what we hope will be life-changing help to the underserved.”

About UABKnown for its innovative and interdisciplinary approach to education at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, UAB is an internationally renowned research university and academic medical center and the state of Alabama’s largest employer, with some 23,000 employees and an economic impact exceeding $5 billion annually on the state. The five pillars of UAB’s mission deliver knowledge that will change your world: the education of students, who are exposed to multidisciplinary learning and a new world of diversity; research, the creation of new knowledge; patient care, the outcome of ‘bench-to-bedside’ translational knowledge; service to the community at home and around the globe, from free clinics in local neighborhoods to the transformational experience of the arts; and the economic development of Birmingham and Alabama. Learn more at www.uab.edu.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The University of Alabama at Birmingham is a separate, independent institution from the University of Alabama, which is located in Tuscaloosa. Please use University of Alabama at Birmingham on first reference and UAB on all subsequent references.

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