Hugh Silk, MD, MPH
Hugh Silk, MD, MPH, professor of family medicine & community health, has been active in oral health training for primary care students and providers for two decades. Now he is working to improve coordination of care between medical and dental providers as co-investigator for the new Center for the Integration of Primary Care and Oral Health.
“We are conducting research to figure out how things are going currently with integration at the academic and clinical levels,” said Dr. Silk. “We want to define what high quality integration looks, who is doing a good job at it and how we can spread their success.”
The center is a joint endeavor of the Harvard University Schools of Medicine and Dental Medicine, the Harvard Center for Primary Care and UMass Medical School’s Department of Family Medicine & Community Health, in partnership with Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and the State University of New York at Stony Brook. It is funded by a five-year, $4.5 million grant from the Health Services and Resources Administration of the United States Department of Health and Human Services
Serving as a national resource for systems-level research on oral health integration into primary care training, the center places special emphasis on enhancements that will enable primary care providers to deliver high quality, cost-effective, patient-centered care that promotes oral health, addresses oral health disparities and meets the unique needs of all communities.
“You’re not going to have a healthy diabetic, a healthy pregnant patient, a healthy heart patient, if you’re not addressing their dental care while you’re addressing their medical care,” Silk explained. “Years of talk and planning are now being followed by dollars.”
Silk has been at the leading edge of teaching medical and nursing students how to incorporate dental health into their practices and collaborate with dental professionals to help their mutual patients achieve overall wellness. He established the Oral Health elective for medical and graduate nursing students at UMMS; serves as director of the “From the First Tooth - Engaging Medical Clinicians in Oral Health” multi-state initiative funded by the Dentaquest Foundation; and is site director of the Foundational Continuity Clinical for the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, with whom he developed the proposal for the new center.
Of the six HRSA-funded academic centers of excellence nationwide, this is the only one focused on oral health.
“Our goal is to stay ahead of the curve with education that keeps up with the quality markers,” said Silk. “We are proud to be engaged in this forward-thinking and requisite element of health care training.”
Ongoing and future studies will identify best practices for integrating oral health in primary care training and practice; develop evaluation methods for a range of programs across the learning and practice spectrum; and disseminate these tools for the use of those involved in primary care delivery, including trainees, practitioners, health system administrators and policymakers.
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