Over three decades, West Virginia University School of Dentistry’s Rural Health Program in Dentistry and Clinical Assessment, commonly referred to by faculty and students simply as rural rotation, has impacted more than 275,000 individuals providing 286,000 dental procedures to patients across the state.
The idea for the school to partner with West Virginia dentists in private practice dates back to 1991 and was developed to meet the unique demands of patients in Appalachian.
In its current form, the rural rotation program gives dental and dental hygiene students an opportunity to spend six to eight weeks treating patients in a private practice setting.
Thirty years ago, alumni Dr. Eric Brannon (’84), Dr. Regina Brannon (’83) and Dr. John “Chip” Perrine (’84) were among the very first dentists to host students for a more real-world experience outside the dental school’s instructional clinic.
In September, those three, along with former faculty member and department chair Dr. Richard Meckstroth who took the program from a few practices to up to 90 partnering practices, were recognized for the continued success of the rural rotation experience. As service-oriented West Virginians and oral healthcare professionals, they were presented with wooden Mountaineer statues, a reminder of their commitment to improving the well-being of patients and mentoring future dentists and dental hygienists in the state.
“Our School of Dentistry was a pioneer in the development of this type of integrated outreach and has made this service learning program one of a kind and one to emulate,” Dr. Valerie Perrine, associate dean for student affairs, community health and outreach, said. “It is the premiere model nationwide thanks to the vision and care taken to form, cultivate and grow the program coupled with the unwavering Mountaineer spirit and loyalty of our WVU alums, and the commitment to service from our school of dentistry students.”
The private practice dentists, or preceptors, help students observe and evaluate daily relationships with patients, staff, laboratory technicians, supply salesperson, other health professionals and community members.
A small group of those private practitioners took advantage of a recent celebration at the Erickson Alumni Center to reminisce and mark the anniversary of the rural rotation program.
Click to see images from the event.