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Maryland State Legislators Learn About Oral Health Care on Dental School Advocacy Day

With the emergence of health care reform, Maryland legislators have gained a strong appreciation of the critical link between good oral health and overall health, thanks partly to the University of Maryland School of Dentistry's annual Advocacy Day visit to the Maryland General Assembly, says Christian S. Stohler, DMD, DrMedDent, dean of the School.

A delegation of dental school students, residents, and faculty members spent a day in February meeting and educating legislators, many from their home districts. University President Jay A. Perman, MD, reminded the students that they represent what's to come in health care. "You, who are the future of dentistry, need to see yourselves as part of health care delivery," Perman said. "You are not a peripheral part⎯you are a very central part of a group of professionals who make a difference in health care."

Senator Thomas Middleton of Charles County briefed the delegation, saying that as Maryland implements the requirements of the federal Affordable Care Act, dentists will play vital roles improving health care delivery. He lauded the students for helping the state prepare to meet future oral health care needs. "You are driven and dedicated to the delivery of dental services to our population, and I thank you for that," Middleton said.

Student Emily Meyer, class of 2016, spoke with Delegate Galen Clagett about access to care in Frederick County, which he represents. "I was interested to learn how dental needs are so different in many communities," Meyer says. "Delegate Clagett talked about Western Maryland, where many people do not have the opportunity to see a dentist on a regular basis. It reminds me of the responsibility we all have as dental care providers."

Student Matthew Goodrich, class of 2015, emphasized the need for more scholarship support and loan forgiveness during his meeting with Delegate William Frank, MAS, of Baltimore County. The average student at the School of Dentistry graduates with more than $146,000 of debt. Delegate Melvin Stukes of Baltimore City told Shaina Holman, class of 2015, that the high cost "makes you wonder how much talent that we are missing because a lot of students cannot afford to complete what they desire to do."

Student Geoffrey Clive, class of 2015, spoke with Delegate Kathy Szeliga, who represents parts of Baltimore and Harford counties. Szeliga was eager to discuss the dental school's Perryville clinic, which serves rural residents near her district. "It is a great opportunity for dental students to get some training," she said.

As the busy Advocacy Day drew to a close, the dental school representatives boarded the bus back to Baltimore. "It was important for us to discuss the issues that are currently relevant to dentistry, and to bring those issues to the front of our legislators' minds," Holman said.

Posting Date: 02/20/2013
Contact Name: Steve Berberich
Contact Phone: 410-706-0023
Contact Email: sberb001@umaryland.edu