The Dr. Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry (NMD) and the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD) Department of Dental Public Health (DPH) have received a five-year, $1.28 million Science Education Partnership Award grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to design innovative online tools that will redefine how young learners are taught about oral health across the country.
Established in 1996, the National Museum of Dentistry is a Smithsonian Affiliate and has been designated by Congress as the “official museum of dentistry in the United States.”
The project, titled “A Mouthful of History,” will provide accessible and easily disseminated online educational modules that combine the health sciences; science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM); and the humanities to create a learning experience that starts with pre-K learners and continues with them until 12th grade
In many states, formal oral health education stops at first or second grade and in some cases isn’t taught at all. By integrating oral health and dental career topics within lessons designed to satisfy existing educational standards, “A Mouthful of History” will enable educators to establish high levels of oral health literacy without straining existing academic schedules or school staffing budgets. “A Mouthful of History” aims to be the spark that makes young learners interested in oral health and aspire to join the dental profession.
“Once you start inspiring children to think about dentistry and its career paths — whether it be hygienist, assistant, technician or dentist, you get them thinking about all of the health professions,” said Richard Manski, DDS, MBA, PhD, museum executive director and professor and chair, Department of Dental Public Health, UMSOD. “That’s our goal, to increase the numbers of young people applying to dental school and open their minds to careers in other health professions.”
The award is the first National Institutes of Health grant received by NMD and a multi-principal investigator project led by Manski and Patrick Cutter, MBA, MA, assistant director, NMD, and research assistant professor, DPH. The project will unify the missions of NMD, DPH, UMSOD, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), while bolstering community engagement and endeavoring to reduce inequities surrounding oral health, and, subsequently, overall health.
The project also will complement existing programs at UMB, including UMB CURE Scholars and UMSOD’s Dental Research Experience (D-REX), which introduce learners to the myriad career opportunities in the field of oral health.
According to Cutter, the “A Mouthful of History” project also is a powerful way to spread the museum’s mission of oral health education from Baltimore to communities across the nation.
A web portal will be created on the NMD website to host the lessons and resources developed during the project, and all lessons will be freely available for learners, educators, caregivers, coaches, and community members. “We’re going to take this idea to each of the 50 states and deliver a product to underserved communities across the country,” Cutter said.
To enhance dissemination, each lesson also will be translated into multiple languages and be made available to dental programs and school systems in every part of the country.
“This is going to be on a national scale to significantly promote individuals’ oral health, promote oral health literacy, and build a pool of potential applicants down the road,” Manski concluded.
About the Dr. Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry
The National Museum of Dentistry, a Smithsonian Affiliate and congressionally designated as the official museum of the dental profession, celebrates the past, present, and future of dentistry while sharing the importance of a healthy mouth in a healthy life. With over 50,000 objects in its collection, the museum is the leading steward of dental history in the world, providing oral health education and inspiring the future of dentistry through innovative educational programming and immersive exhibitions. Located at the epicenter of the foundation of the dental profession in Baltimore, Md., the museum can be found on the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus along with the first dental school in the world. For more information, visit www.dentalmuseum.com.
About the University of Maryland School of Dentistry
The University of Maryland School of Dentistry, the world’s first dental college, offers superlative educational programs in oral health. As one of six professional schools and an interdisciplinary Graduate School on the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s 71-acre campus, it is part of a thriving academic health center that combines groundbreaking biomedical research and exceptional patient care. The school is Maryland’s predominant provider of comprehensive and emergency oral health services. For more information, visit www.dental.umaryland.edu.