TSU, Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center partner to improve dental care

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University and the Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center are partnering to improve dental care in Nashville.

On June 11, the two collaborated to provide free dental screenings and cleanings. Organizers said the event, called “Free Dental Health Day,” was a success and will be held annually.

“We were open for service from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and people started lining up before 8 a.m.,” said Dr. Robyn Mays, dental director at Matthew Walker.

TSU and Matthew Walker are also working on a program that will allow TSU’s dental hygiene students to rotate through Matthew Walker’s dental department as part of their curriculum. Matthew Walker’s hygienist is a graduate of TSU’s Dental Hygiene Department, and would likely evaluate the students, according to Gary-Lee A. Lewis, who heads TSU’s department.

“There would be a dual benefit,” Lewis said. “We would serve as additional professionals available to provide the services, while our students would get exposure to different patients.”

The collaboration is another effort by health care experts to try to improve dental care in Nashville. For instance, the city has formed the Middle Tennessee Oral Health Coalition, which is “working to collaborate and facilitate access to those who need dental care in Middle Tennessee,” said Dr. Michelle Pardue, dental program director for the Metro Public Health Department.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, nearly 7,000 adults went to Davidson County emergency rooms in 2014 for relief of dental conditions. The number has been on the rise since 2012, the department said.

“While many have benefited from improved oral health in Nashville, we still have room to improve,” Pardue said.

Lewis said TSU’s clinic, alone, averages about 600 patients a year and he hopes that number will increase “with the linkages that we make with the community,” such as the collaboration with Matthew Walker.

In addition to dental care, Matthew Walker has served Middle Tennessee families for nearly 50 years with a comprehensive primary care model of services that include pediatrics, family medicine, internal medicine, behavioral health, nutrition, along with ancillary services such as radiology, laboratory and pharmacy.

But particularly in the case of dental care, TSU dental hygiene student Rachel Rowe said she believes the continued collaboration between TSU and Matthew Walker will benefit many people. The senior was among several TSU students who participated in the “Free Dental Health Day “ in June.

“Without a doubt, everything I did … gave me a new passion for helping the community,” Rowe said. “I will remember both the knowledge and the experience I gained.”

Department of Media Relations

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With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.