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Luke Shaefer

Could a mid-level dental provider increase access to oral health care in Michigan? Assistant Professor Luke Schaefer is collaborating with the University of Michigan and the University of Detroit Mercy schools of dentistry on a feasibility committee to examine a pilot program to train registered dental hygienists to provide an expanded scope of practice.

"Oral disease affects millions, disproportionately impacting those in poverty, the elderly, and children," Shaefer explained. "Collaboration isn't always totally comfortable, but it's the responsibility of social workers to push the interests of vulnerable and underserved populations and try to move them higher up on the agendas of all professional communities."

The grant funds the development of a model for a combined dental hygienist-dental therapist provider in the state of Michigan. This model would address supervision requirements, a licensure structure to promote services to vulnerable populations, and the necessary training requirements. The project will develop detailed plans for a pilot effort that would enable a small-scale implementation of new oral health practices, coupled with a careful evaluation.

Assistant Professor Luke Shaefer was awarded the 2013 Deborah K. Padgett Early Career Achievement Award at the Society for Social Work and Research meeting in January 2013.

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