Schweitzer Fellows 2015-2016 focus on oral health in pregnancy

Oral health care is an important part of overall health for pregnant women and their babies. This is the message that second year dental students Mary Bec Keith and Kaitlyn Anderson will emphasize with medical students and residents and dental students in the coming year as Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of North Carolina Albert Schweitzer Fellows.

Working with Dr. Linda May, whose ECU faculty appointments include dental medicine, exercise physiology, and obstetrics and gynecology, the fellows will be educating pregnant women about the importance of oral health as part of an initiative called prenatal Oral Health Program (pOHP). They are partnering with students and residents at the ECU Brody School of Medicine Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinic to screen for oral health issues and make referrals to the Comprehensive Care and Advanced Care clinics at the ECU School of Dental Medicine.

“Through our work on this project, we have learned so much about pregnancy and some of the adversities and complications that women may face during this time,” said Mary Bec Keith. “Likewise, we have been able to inform medical students and residents about oral health and how it can change in patients who are pregnant.”

Before Keith and Anderson began their project in June 2015, only a few pregnant patients had been seen at ECU dental clinics in the first three years since the school opened.

“Since June, there have been 40 total patients referred to our clinics and 25 of those patients have made appointments, “ said Kaitlyn Anderson. “We hope to increase this number so dental students have the opportunity to gain confidence treating pregnant women and are comfortable doing so after they graduate.”

“Mary Bec and Kaitlyn’s project is based upon a previous Schweitzer project by students at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry called the Prenatal Oral Health Program (pOHP),” said Dr. Linda May. “We’re fortunate that pOHP program leaders at Chapel Hill graciously allowed us to use their resources to start a similar referral program from the Brody School of Medicine OB/Gyn Clinic to the ECU School of Dental Medicine.”

The fellows have set specific goals for their project. They hope that by April 2016 at least 80 medical students and 20 residents will have receive pregnancy targeted oral health training and committed to integrating oral health into their prenatal care routine, 52 dental students will have participated in treating a pregnant patient, over 100 patients will have been referred to ECU dental clinics, and over 52 patients will have received dental treatment.

“Another main goal of our project is sustainability,” said Mary Bec. “The medical students and residents will be graduating, and we hope they continue to provide pregnant women with dental care. The dental faculty and the obstetrics/gynecology faculty also have a large role in the sustainability of our project as they will be the ones to continue the referral system after our fellowship.”

According to the website, the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship is dedicated to preparing the next generation of professionals who will serve and empower vulnerable people to live healthier lives and create healthier communities. The fellowship was created in memory of Dr. Albert Schweitzer, who dedicated his to life to serving others after becoming aware of the desperate medical needs of Africans.

Keith and Anderson - Schweitzer 2015-2016

Pictured are Mary Bec Keith (at left) and Kaitlyn Anderson.