Check out a few of the ways the UNC Adams School of Dentistry serves the state of North Carolina.

two students working with a patient

DISC Program

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.  

Free Dental Clinics

Student Health Action Coalition (SHAC) holds free clinics organized and run by UNC-CH medical, dental and other health professional students. Dental SHAC occurs most weeks while students are in session on Wednesday nights.

The Hispanic Dental Association (HDA) Vidas de Esperanza Clinic strives to spread awareness of Hispanic oral health needs and issues, to provide dental services and oral health education to local Hispanic community, to emphasize the importance of familiarity with Hispanic culture and patient profiles, and to provide a voice for the Hispanic students and oral health professionals at UNC-CH.

The Student National Dental Association (SNDA) CAARE’s Clinic was founded to increase access to care and provide quality urgent and preventative oral health care to the underserved population in the Durham community. The clinic seeks to not only provide treatment, but vital health education including dental disease prevention, oral hygiene instruction, nutrition counseling, and overall health and wellness screening. The SNDA CAARE’s clinic operates in Durham on most Tuesday nights.

The Samaritan Health Center (SHC) Dental Clinic is a faith-based, Christian, free dental clinic that operates of the Durham Rescue Mission. The UNC-CH School of Dentistry students and faculty members partner with SHC to hold weekly clinics on Thursday nights.

Service and Leadership

Schweitzer Fellowships Program is a leadership program and community service opportunity for graduate health professional students. Fellows create and develop inventions to improve the health and well-being of communities throughout the state. The UNC Adams School of Dentistry Schweitzer Fellows have led many clinical and education projects which provide measurable impact. The application deadline is February 1 of each year.

The Adams School of Dentistry’s student chapter of the American Association of Public Health Dentistry, is a student-led volunteer organization whose mission is to serve the underserved populations in North Carolina through dentistry. AAPHD members include primarily dental students, but also students from dental hygiene, advanced education and dental assisting programs.

Adams Rural Oral Health and Wellness Scholars Program

The UNC Adams School of Dentistry partners with UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC to offer the Adams Rural Oral Health and Wellness Scholars (AROWS) Program. The program targets dental students interested in a career caring for underserved North Carolinians. AROW Scholars engage in a two-year set of evening learning experiences, a week-long rural health immersion, and a semester-long clinical experience in MAHEC’s Dental Health Centers in Asheville, NC, and Columbus, NC, providing care to the underserved in the western part of our state. Those who complete the AROWS Program successfully and have appropriate academic standing may also qualify for Graduation with Distinction in Community Service.

Applications are due no later than Friday, September 1, 2023. Apply now!

Questions may be submitted to:

Katherine Jowers, DDS
Director, Adams Rural Oral Health and Wellness Scholars Program
jowers@unc.edu or Katherine.Jowers@MAHEC.net

Michelle Pittman
Program Administrator, Adams Rural Oral Health and Wellness Scholars Program
Michelle.Pittman@mahec.net