Rural and underserved populations have
higher rates of dental caries and permanent tooth loss,
often due to economic disparities and distances from
dental providers. Many of these areas are
federally designated as dental health professional
shortage areas. A
2017 report by the University of Washington's Center
for Health Workforce Studies corroborates the lack of
dentists in rural areas.
To meet these dental care needs – with initial funding
from Washington's state legislature in 2007 – the
University of Washington's School of Dentistry (UWSOD)
created the Regional
Initiatives In Dental Education (RIDE) program.
RIDE's 4 year curriculum focuses on training a
"super-generalist" able to meet the challenges of an oral
health practice in rural and underserved areas. Modeled
after the University of Washington School of Medicine's
WWAMI program (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and
Idaho), the young RIDE program is already experiencing
early success placing dentists in rural/underserved areas
in Washington and beyond.
The RIDE "hub" is in Spokane, and like WWAMI, similarly
leverages regional university infrastructure for
biomedical science instruction, and community
practitioners for instruction on clinical rotations.
The RIDE dental students take first year courses with
WWAMI medical students and will spend over 40% of their
educational time in Washington's rural and remote areas.
Distance learning also augments both biomedical and
dental science instruction to ensure equivalency with
UWSOD Seattle curriculum.
Dental science courses are taught by the faculty form
Eastern Washington University's (EWU) Dental Hygiene
program. These experienced senior faculty members are
passionate about participating in RIDE's mission-based
effort addressing oral health disparities. Classes with
both dental and hygiene students lend to a valuable
shared academic atmosphere.
The RIDE program also introduces dental students to
teamwork concepts and holistic patient care models.
Training occurs in an interprofessional setting with
medical, dental, and dental hygiene students working
alongside hygienists, nurse practitioners, physician
assistants, physicians, pharmacists, nurses, behavioral
health practitioners, and social workers.
RIDE's unique approach includes 5-6 months of extended
intensive clinical training in Eastern Washington's
Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). This includes
experiences in oral medicine, oral surgery, periodontics,
and pediatric dentistry designed to equip dental students
with the additional skills often required in rural areas.
Multiple organizations recognize the public health and
economic benefits resulting from RIDE's implementation.
Support of the program comes from:
- University of Washington School of Medicine
- Eastern Washington University
- Federally Qualified Health Centers in Eastern and
- Spokane District Dental Society
- Spokane Chamber of Commerce (Greater Spokane, Inc.)
- Washington State Dental Association
- Washington Dental Service Foundation
- State Legislators
- Washington State Board of Health
In 2017, the program was the recipient of the American
Dental Education Association/Gies Foundation (ADEA Gies
Foundation) Award for Vision, the highest national award
based on "outstanding contributions to oral health and
Support and financial assistance came from multiple
HRSA ARRA grant, the Washington State Department of
Health, the Washington state legislature, the American
Dental Education Association, in addition to in-kind
resources from the other institutions and organizations.