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May 14, 2010
Louisiana delegates unveil new Mobile Dental Hygiene Unit
A team of state and national delegates descended on the University of Louisiana at Monroe campus to help unveil ULM’s new Mobile Dental Hygiene Unit on Friday, May 14.
The delegation touted the importance of addressing the oral healthcare needs of one of the nation’s most impoverished areas during the unveiling of the 42-foot long, fully equipped unit, made possible through a federal appropriations allocation of $471,420 to the ULM College of Health Sciences.
Under Senator Mary L. Landrieu’s leadership, D-La., and with support from Congressman Rodney Alexander, R-La., the delegates steered an appropriations bill that included funding for the unit through both houses of Congress as members of their respective committees. It was signed by President Obama in March.
“This unit will not only provide an excellent training facility for students, but will also serve the needs of our rural areas,” said Landrieu. “Dental coverage can be expensive and hard to come by … for this university to meet this challenge, I’m proud to have directed money in this way.”
Landrieu, noting the dental hygiene program’s 100 percent graduation rate for the last decade, said her support was leveraged by a tradition of solid work at ULM.
Congressman Alexander echoed those sentiments as he reminded attendees that the new unit should help address the myriad of dental issues facing one in every five children in the ninth poorest district in the nation.
“When good people do good things, good things happen,” said Alexander, as he nodded proudly toward the new unit. “This is good.”
The new unit has the potential to reach hundreds of Louisianans every year who do not receive regular dental care due to barriers related to affordability and accessibility, according to College of Health Sciences Dean Dr. Denny Ryman.
Ryman acknowledged several dental hygiene students present at the unveiling and reminded them about the places in Louisiana the unit will now take them, saying, “I want you to always remember what you see. You have the opportunity to help a lot of people and I just want you to understand that.”
Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo, a ULM alum, committed $90,000 in operational funds on behalf of the city and its council members. He said that ULM is indebted to state and local officials for their hard work on behalf of the university.
“You have a good hygiene program and a good university,” he said.
The unit offers three full-service dental operatories and will be staffed by part-time dentists, dental hygiene students and dental hygiene faculty. Patients may expect many of the same services as they would receive from a stand-alone clinic, including a review of their health histories, examination of the oral cavity for oral cancer or other diseases, teeth cleaning, oral health care instruction, dietary counseling, and patient education. A dentist can also recommend the application of sealants, according to Ryman.
Louisiana’s oral health, specifically in children, is in a “state of crisis,” according to a study by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. The report noted unequal distribution of dentists in the state, especially in rural areas.
Ryman said the unit provides accessibility directly to those areas where services are most needed and could be the only way many segments of the population will get the care and treatment they need.
He said the unit would enhance the clinical experiences of ULM’s dental hygiene students by presenting opportunities to practice on a wide array of patients with moderate to severe oral pathology, setting apart the education these students receive as among the best in the nation.
In an earlier statement ULM President James Cofer applauded the college's diligence.
“We are proud of the hard work of our College of Health Sciences faculty and staff, who continue to provide quality educational opportunities for our students, as well as the kind of outreach that is so vital to the health of Louisiana citizens,” said Cofer.
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