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May 4, 2012

Whorton gives presentation highlighting ULM Dental Hygiene Department and mobile unit at ULS Academic Summit

Kimberly Whorton, assistant professor in the University of Louisiana at Monroe Dental Hygiene Department, recently presented at the University of Louisiana System's Academic Summit, hosted by McNeese State University.

The two-day event focused on service-learning, undergraduate research and a reception featuring a juried student art exhibition.

Whorton's presentation, "Making a Difference, One Community at a Time," highlighted the Dental Hygiene Department's role in service-learning and the Mobile Dental Hygiene Unit.

One of the goals of service-learning is to enrich the learning experience.

On the Mobile Dental Hygiene Unit, the students learn practical applications of their studies and also become active in providing community service.

"I felt very fortunate to be able to share with others what the Dental Hygiene Department and the Mobile Dental Hygiene Unit are doing for the community," Whorton said.

"Although other agencies have mobile units, they do not have the advantage and opportunity to educate students while also serving the community.

"The Dental Hygiene Department has several curriculum components designed to teach students to analyze dental health in the community using public health principles. Students are taught how to assess, plan, implement, and evaluate community programs.

"They are then able to use what they have learned in the classroom to solve real-life problems. This process helps to build character, and teaches responsibility to the community."

Since the spring of 2011, the Mobile Dental Hygiene Unit has been able to provide dental services to over 300 patients. Provision of these services is helping to address affordability and accessibility to dental care.

When budget cuts jeopardized the goals of this project, funding was needed to help expand services to promote oral health in other rural parishes of Northeast Louisiana.

A grant from the Living Well Foundation, as well as donations from the City of Monroe, the West Monroe Civitans, and Entergy helped with the operating expenses of the unit.

The department is also collaborating with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals for a sealant initiative.

Future plans for the Mobile Dental Hygiene Unit include partnering with other civic and community groups to expand services to other Northeast Louisiana parishes.

Students and faculty from the nine ULS campuses all came "to share information and their enthusiasm for community service, creative expression and the investigative process," said McNeese President Philip Williams.

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