The University of the Pacific plans to build an innovative new medical education clinic on the Sacramento campus that leaders say will provide a glimpse into the future of dental care — and indeed health care delivery in general.
“Our plan would be to have not only dentistry students there in Sacramento, but our other health students — the (physician assistants), the nursing students, and our pharmacy students from the Long School of Pharmacy, as well as others who provide primary care to the community there in our Sacramento campus,” said Dr. Nader Nadershahi, a dentist and dean of the University of the Pacific’s Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, located in San Francisco.
Nadershahi said he doesn’t know of any other dental school in the nation that teaches with an integrated model like this one, but he thinks it’s the next evolution in his field because of the importance of oral health to overall health.
“About $2.5 billion has been spent on emergency room visits for oral health problems that could have been prevented if people could go to their oral health care provider for preventive care,” explains Nadershahi. “That is a major burden on our healthcare system. … On the other hand, there are over 30 million people who go to their oral health care provider but do not visit their health care provider during the year.”
There has been much discussion among healthcare thought leaders about integrating dentistry into the medical home of patients, Nadershahi said, and as an innovator in dentistry for the past 125 years, the University of the Pacific found it it was time to create a model for how this new type of health education would be delivered to dental students.
“If we can catch something, whether it’s oral cancer or high blood pressure or diabetes…that we can then refer for care, that could really reduce the impact on that person’s health burden and disease (progression),” said Nadershahi. “It can also really reduce the cost of more expensive downstream treatments that those individuals may have to endure.”
University faculties can explore best practices for this collaborative healthcare model in a new building Nadershahi hopes to build next year across from McClatchy Park on Fifth Avenue in the Oak Park neighborhood. If everything goes according to plan, the clinic should open in 2024.
University leaders announced this week that they had received a $4 million lead gift from Stephen Thorne and his wife, Pamela Thorne, to help establish the new teaching facility known as the Pacific Dental Services Health Care Collaborative. It will provide comprehensive healthcare services to the public in an integrated teaching and learning environment.
“Pacific Dental Services cares about supporting dentists and creating a perfect patient experience, but we are also committed to guiding and assisting the next generation of healthcare professionals to become tomorrow’s leaders,” said Stephen Thorne. “This new center will serve as the future of oral health and exemplify the dental-medical integration that will provide better healthcare for the patients who will use this amazing new facility.”
Pacific Dental Services founder and chief executive officer, Thorne, advocated this collaborative model, Nadershahi said. It is something that the Indian health service and many medical clinics serving uninsured patients and Medi-Cal beneficiaries have been using for some time now. Research shows that this collaborative model has value not only for patients, but also for the medical care team, Nadershahi said.
The Thornes gift kicks off fundraising efforts for Pacific’s Oak Park partnership, and Nadershahi said he expects the facility to cost at least $50 million to build.
UOP dentistry know-how closer to home
Sacramento residents have long traveled to the Bay Area to get cheaper dental care from students and faculty at the University of the Pacific clinics, but once this facility opens, thousands of people will be able to get care closer to home.
“We estimate somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 … total healthcare patients, and maybe 10,000 of those will be dental specific patients that we would treat,” Nadershahi said. “To give you a comparison, at our San Francisco clinic, we have approximately 120,000 patient visits, everywhere from pediatric patients to our aging community and from all walks of life.”
The new clinic will enable Pacific to add positions for about 30 students at its dental school, he said. In addition to students of dentistry, physician assistants, nursing and pharmacy, Nadershahi said, there will also be learning opportunities for her students in occupational therapy, nutrition, social work and other areas of health care.
“This facility will enable Pacific to lead the way into a future that requires deeper collaboration between dental and medical providers,” said Nicoleta Bugnariu, the dean of Pacific’s new School of Health Sciences. “We look forward to strengthening our relationship with the Dugoni School of Dentistry, and our students are thrilled to be a part of this new collaborative educational model.”
This collaboration should enable researchers at Pacific, and those of other institutions, to measure the results not only in terms of value, but also against the other three targets,” Nadershahi said.
“Health spending in the US is some of the highest in the world,” he said, “and our results and our ability to reach diverse communities and historically disadvantaged members of our community have probably not been as strong as it could have been. And we’re trying to use these education models to address some of those needs.”