Patients welcome!

January 24th, 2022
Faculty member Dr. Joel Karns provides clinical instruction for D4 student Charlie Fuller and D3 student Samuel Casco.

Faculty member Dr. Joel Karns provides clinical instruction for D4 student Charlie Fuller and D3 student Samuel Casco.

Texas A&M College of Dentistry’s predoctoral clinics are active these days. Despite the pandemic, patient care has been available at full capacity since mid-2021. The message to patients: Come see us!

“Now that we’re no longer at reduced capacity, we’ve been able to get back to a more normal patient flow,” says Dr. Jennifer Barrington, assistant dean for clinical education. “We’re reaching out to patients to tell them we’re open. Even with a full clinic, we found we had sufficient distance between every chair to be able to open up fully.”

Students help screen patients for COVID-19 when they arrive at their appointment floor. The group practice curriculum’s teammate system helps students control aerosol-producing procedures, allowing them “to safely provide all aspects of dental care,” Barrington says.

New-patient screenings occur within the group practices, with most patients accepted into the group practice that screens them. Appointments for screenings open at the beginning of each month and close when they fill for the month; the phone number is (214) 828-8981. Staff members have expanded available slots to help ensure all appointments are filled daily. Barrington says this process is being refined over time in hopes of screening more patients.

To avoid appointment-day surprises for everyone, students are advised to phase and sequence their approved treatment plans so that patients have an idea of what to expect financially as treatment progresses. Barrington notes that patients accepted within the predoctoral program ideally also have some free time and flexibility within their schedule to accommodate the nuances of a teaching institution.

Recall appointments are occurring again as before the pandemic. The emergency extraction clinic is also open by appointment several days a week.

“We’re striving to ensure students provide patient care daily,” Barrington says, noting efforts to expand endodontic care at the Dr. M.C. Cooper Dental Clinic and hire additional faculty to cover increasing clinical care.

“We want each student engaged and every clinic chair utilized to maximize our patient care efforts,” she says.

— Carolyn Cox