Community outreach has been a cornerstone of the Altamash Institute of Dental Medicine since its inception. Improving the overall health of the global population remains a key component of our institute’s mission. At the same time, community service programs provide indispensable learning opportunities for our students. Opening the eyes of these future health care professionals to health disparities in our nation and around the world is, we believe, a vital part of a complete education in dental medicine.
For over 12 years, AIDM has provided extensive oral health outreach programs for schoolchildren, the elderly people with disabilities, the homeless, and other under privileged populations. With an emphasis on local community involvement as well as a strong commitment to global oral health care, AIDM’s outreach activities provide participants with a unique service-learning experience and an increased awareness of access-to-care issues, while fostering a passion for volunteerism and social responsibility.
All students are strongly encouraged to play an active and responsible role in their local community. AIDM offers a variety of opportunities for its students to get involved and promotes oral health awareness in and around Karachi. Activities may include participation in local health fairs, delivering oral hygiene instruction to school, orphan children, the elderly, and other vulnerable populations, distributing toothbrushes, and performing oral screenings.
While first and second year dental students cannot conduct any "hands-on" patient care, these students often choose to perform outreach in other ways, such as through oral health presentations to local community organizations and schools or distributing supplies and educational materials to increase oral health awareness. When students begin performing clinical patient care at AIDM, they may provide additional outreach services, such as oral cancer screenings, under approved faculty supervision. To ensure that potential patients receive the best possible care and consideration, AIDM has a process by which students and faculty must obtain approval for such events.
During a clinical outreach, students receive hands-on clinical instruction and are exposed to public health issues in dentistry. Participants are challenged to think outside the operatory and ask what they can do to reduce the barriers surrounding access to care for underserved populations. Post-outreach evaluations have consistently shown a transformational effect on participants and past participants have noted these experiences as a highlight in their dental school exxperience. Clinical outreach programs are only open to third- and fourth-year dental students and, in certain locations, dental hygiene students.
AIDM's public health outreach programs focus on oral health education and do not include a clinical component; instead, providers seek to prevent oral disease and tooth decay by implementing widespread preventive measures for children. Paramount to the success of the public health efforts, is an educational component to increase the overall "dental IQ" of people served, while influencing the behaviors and attitudes surrounding personal responsibility for and understanding of oral and systemic health.
AIDM's comprehensive global outreach programs offer participants a unique, service-learning experience. These interdisciplinary programs provide faculty, residents, and students of dentistry, hygiene, nursing, and public health, with a well-rounded perspective on access-to-care issues and challenge them to re-think their roles as health care providers. Clinical outreach programs provide free dental services to populations facing barriers to oral health care including a dearth of dental providers and economic hardships.
Partnerships with local organizations and health care providers are cultivated to ensure the continuation of preventive services in AIDM's absence. The communities served by the programs are empowered by AIDM's outreach model, as sustainable oral health services become a reality.