The new Care Mobile will take dental and dental hygiene students into the community to care for children and teens. Photo by Rhonda Whitmeyer.
“We continually work to improve and expand our core programs, while also developing new services to address the unique needs of the communities we serve,” said Debbie Adams, RMHC president. “We rely on strategic alliances with organizations that have the knowledge and infrastructure to extend our reach, and we’re very excited about our new partnership with UTHealth.
“Together, the UTHealth School of Dentistry and RMHC will deliver cost-effective, quality dental care to children in underserved communities across our area, literally opening the door to care for thousands of children,” said Adams.
Since 2002, the School of Dentistry has relied on mobile dental services to provide preventive care and treatment to patients in remote locations, at health fairs and to individuals affected by natural disasters. In that time, the mobile dental clinic has traveled more than 60,000 miles, and students and faculty screened and treated more than 24,000 patients.
Faculty at the school saw the need for a larger vehicle to continue the community outreach missions, which led to the partnership with RMHC. The new Care Mobile will shift treatment solely to pediatric patients, whereas both adult and pediatric patients were treated in the previous vehicle.
“In a large urban center such as the Houston-Galveston area, access to dental health care for underserved and underrepresented groups has been a long-standing problem, and one way to address this is to bring the office to the patient,” said Robert Cederberg, DDS, associate dean for patient care at the School of Dentistry. “The school and RMHC are sensitive to these needs, so investment in a dental care mobile is a great project and benefits our students by exposing them to the needs of the community.”
In the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, up to three pediatric patients can be treated at once, with X-rays taken via hand-held units. Although the previous dental van had three patient-care bays, only two patients could be treated at once, while a third bay was used for radiology.
Having a third bay available for patient care in the new van allows the addition of a dental hygiene student to the care team that also includes a faculty dentist, two dental students and two dental assistants.
“Community service learning teaches our students to be culturally sensitive when treating individuals of diverse ethnic backgrounds and broadens their horizons to consider different career and practice paths,” said Margo Melchor, RDH, MEd, director of community outreach at the School of Dentistry.
Dental services are provided to several community and clinical partners. The Ronald McDonald Care Mobile will service the Houston-Galveston area, as well as other Texas cities in the region, for various events and health fairs.
The new Care Mobile has environment-friendly features. An “eco” generator gives the unit one hour of battery backup in case of emergency and it uses low-sulfur biodiesel fuel.
Plans for the old vehicle are undetermined, but options such as using it as a back-up unit and for
responding to natural disasters are being considered.
In addition to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Houston/Galveston, Inc., the Susman Family Foundation helps the School of Dentistry provide preventive care and treatment for children and adolescents.