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School of Medicine oral health curriculum featured in AAMCNews

Oral health advocate Hugh Silk discusses integrating dental care into medical training

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

July 12, 2018
  Hugh Silk, MD

Hugh Silk, MD

Although oral health is essential to overall health, historically it has not been included in medical training. But now a handful of medical schools, teaching hospitals, and professional organizations, including UMass Medical School, are leading efforts to eliminate the separation between medicine and dentistry, according to an the article in the July 3 issueof AAMCNews.

The weekly online newsletter of the Association of American Medical Colleges talked with Hugh Silk, MD, professor of family medicine & community health and a nationally recognized advocate for integrating oral health into medical school curricula. With the support of UMMS leadership, faculty and students, he has made great strides in doing just that at the School of Medicine over the past decade.

Silk established a full-day training for third-year medical students and launched an optional elective in oral health for all medical and graduate nursing students at UMMS. Since then, the School of Medicine has been adding oral health content throughout the four-year curriculum, beginning in the first-year Foundations of Medicine courses with oral anatomy; an overview of the importance of oral health and medical conditions associated with poor oral health; and how to perform mouth exams, among many related topics.

Silk is the recipient of the American Association of Public Health Dentistry’s 2016 Public Service Award. He serves as director of the From the First Tooth–Engaging Medical Clinicians in Oral Health multi-state initiative funded by the Dentaquest Foundation and he co-chairs the Massachusetts Medical Society’s Committee on Oral Health, which he also founded.

Silk told AAMCNews that there’s still a long way to go in breaking down the dental and medical silos. But he says that much like increasing recognition of the connection between physical and emotional health, better education can help make the connection between the mouth and the rest of the body.

“We have to normalize [oral health] education,” Silk said. “My dream is that one day schools won’t need a special day on oral health; it’ll just be part of the existing curricula.”

Read the full AAMCNews story here and learn more about oral health curriculum at UMMS here.

Related stories on UMassMedNow:
Hugh Silk, MD, takes leadership role at new center to integrate oral health into primary care training
Hugh Silk earns public service award for integrating oral health into primary care
Why your medical doctor should examine your teeth
Silk: ‘There’s hope’ for integrating dental and medical care
Silk’s oral health resolution adopted by MMS