The Dentistry in Service to Community (DISC) Program is an innovative initiative that champions ASOD’s social and service mission through community-based service-learning. In partnership with the North Carolina Area Health Education Centers (AHEC), DISC fosters meaningful, enduring impact across the state’s diverse communities. Since its inception in the early 1970s, DISC has served as a national model for community-based service learning in oral health care. Students routinely refer to DISC as “transformative,” and the program is consistently cited as a highlight of their journey at ASOD.
Integrating all three components of the “Advocate, Clinician, Thinker” (ACT) curriculum, DISC offers supervised experiences in delivering comprehensive oral health care to marginalized populations across diverse urban and rural settings. These experiences occur via a 5-week rotation between the third and fourth years of the pre-doctoral curriculum.
Through DISC, learners are immersed in applied experiences to explore their role as an oral health community leader, advocate, and clinician. Specifically, the program helps learners recognize that the barriers that perpetuate inequities span beyond the clinical domain, encompassing the social and political determinants of health. Additionally, DISC provides opportunities for students to apply perspectives gained during their experience to oral health-related policy advocacy.
DISC rotations are offered in collaboration with a diverse array of North Carolina-based safety-net sites, including:
- Local health departments
- State institutions
- Correctional facilities
- Long-term care facilities
- Hospital-based programs
- Community health centers, such as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs)
- Veterans Administration facilities
Dentists at these sites, credentialed as adjunct faculty members at ASOD, serve as preceptors and mentors to the learners. They supervise the learners’ clinical practice and share lessons from lived experience.
For decades, the DISC program has anchored ASOD’s commitment to service, providing millions of dollars in in-kind care to underserved and marginalized communities. Introducing learners to issues of equity, access, and advocacy while developing their skills as clinicians, DISC is a critical component of ASOD’s mission to prepare the next generation of oral health leaders.