A virtual community health field project during the COVID-19 pandemic


Diagnostic Sciences

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Journal of Dental Education









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Problem: The Commission on Dental Accreditation mandates that dental graduates must be competent to treat patients from diverse backgrounds. Introducing dental students to oral health disparities in the community at an early stage helps them realize poor oral health for the public and dental patients results from multifaceted factors. Now, more than ever, COVID-19 disease and restrictions has highlighted how essential it is to understand the variety of barriers to access oral health care services. Strict public health regulations by city, county, and state orders made any extramural community health site visit by students impossible. Solution: The Community Health Field Project was converted to a virtual community experience using the flipped classroom technique. Students, in teams of 3, chose a community social agency or dental clinic site via google sheet posted in Canvas. Journal articles on public health and community dentistry with special focus on barriers to access and social determinants of health (SDOH) were provided as reference. Each team researched a new article and contrasted their new article with the provided journal as a critical thinking exercise. Prior to the workshop, the teams created a case presentation after conducting a virtual tour of their site. Per the rubric, students researched information on the mission statement, history of the agency, a description of the business model, and the community members served. Students briefly explained the process of how a person became eligible for services or as a patient at their agency or clinic. Also noted was the neighborhood, public transportation, and access and referral toother medical, dental, and counseling services, etc. (Figure 1). Each week, teams representing each of the 6 community clinic sites presented their case presentations to peers and faculty. The students individually submitted a reflection in canvas after their workshop using the 4Fs framework—Facts, Findings, Feelings, and Future—as a review of their virtual experience. They were asked about their assumptions on all aspects of community health, SDOH, and how the virtual experiences altered or confirmed their assumptions.