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Silk’s oral health resolution adopted by MMS

Medicine from the Heart 2012 epilogue

  Oral health advocate and narrative medicine enthusiast Hugh Silk is pictured here at a reading of selected Thursday Morning Memos marking National Primary Care Week at UMass Medical School in October 2011.

Thanks to impassioned advocacy by Hugh Silk, MD, clinical associate professor of family medicine & community health, the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) passed a resolution on May 19 committing its physician members to assume greater responsibility for their patients’ oral health. With adoption of the  resolution, the MMS agreed to create a Task Force on Oral Health whose objectives include engaging medical educators to add oral health into medical curriculum and to incorporate oral health into Medical Society initiatives to improve public health.


In his narrative essay “Climbing the Mountain” Dr. Silk, director of the Family Health Residency at Hahnemann Family Health Center described how he approached the MMS with his proposal for the resolution at the MMS annual meeting. Silk, the founder of Thursday Morning Memos, the Department of Family Medicine & Community Health’s narrative medicine series, reflected upon “a recent event in my public health life that I hope will act as an inspiration to some to keep on fighting the fight for their causes.” He relayed his surprise at the degree of negative and uninformed reactions prompted by his proposal to have the MMS pass a resolution committing its physician members to assume greater responsibility for their patients’ oral health.

“The reference committee testimony is often varied and the committee itself sifts through that information and renders a recommendation which, in Hugh's case, was to adopt,” wrote James Broadhurst, MD, assistant professor of family medicine & community health and a booster for Silk’s proposal, in a follow-up email to the Thursday Morning Memos list serv.“Due to Hugh's effort and initiative, the MMS will convene a Task Force on Oral Health this year.”

Silk has long championed incorporating oral health into family medicine and community health. His teaching of, and advocacy for, oral health across the School of Medicine curriculum includes a community health clerkship for first-year students, clinical correlations for second-year students and a required oral health interclerkship for third-year students. He has further advanced oral health education across the country as a co-developer of the “Smiles for Life—A National Oral Health Curriculum for Family Medicine Project,” which was awarded the Most Innovative Curriculum Award from the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine in 2007, and for providing valuable interprofessional opportunities for dental and medical residents.

Another UMass Medical School family physician who attended the MMS meeting wrote, “We actually had a discussion about the inclusion of oral health into routine medical care at our lunch table. So keep climbing that mountain, because you are being heard.”

(Editor’s note: Many Thursday Morning Memos are republished in the “Medicine from the heart” column on UMassMedNow.)

Related links on UMassMedNow:
Medicine from the heart . . . Hugh Silk: Climbing the Mountain
Family Medicine and Community Health faculty recognized
UMMS faculty and students honored by Worcester District Medical Society
Celebrating primary care by telling stories
Personal stories capture medicine’s highs and lows