Delta Dental of Arizona, University of Arizona Announce Creation of Oral Health Medical Initiative at the College of Medicine – Phoenix

The University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix and Delta Dental of Arizona are partnering to create the Oral Health Medical Initiative (OHMI). The partnership, established with an $850,000 investment by the Delta Dental Foundation of Arizona, will enhance oral health education for all medical students at Phoenix College of Medicine and is expected to launch during the 2024-2025 academic year, which begins in July.

Michael Jones and Dean Wondisford observe OMHI laboratory simulations
Michael Jones and Dean Wondisford observe OMHI laboratory simulations

It is common for vulnerable and underserved populations to seek emergency care medical services. Lack of financial means, nutritious food and preventive care or an unmanaged health condition may cause patients to delay care until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage.

“Medical-dental integration can lead to positive health outcomes for vulnerable populations, such as at-risk children, pregnant women, seniors and those who require chronic disease management,” said Michael Jones, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Arizona. “Delta Dental of Arizona has long been an advocate for greater communication between dental and healthcare providers to reduce barriers to care. By integrating oral health courses into medical education, graduating physicians will be better equipped to address health disparities and Understand the connection between oral health and overall health to improve the health and well-being of patients and our communities.

The OHMI program is designed to educate physicians on the oral cavity as a window into potential health problems and provide physicians with the vocabulary to communicate effectively with dental colleagues.

“Through oral screening assessments, patient counseling and early intervention, physicians can have a significant impact on patient outcomes, especially for vulnerable and underserved populations,” said Dr. Irene Alexandraki, senior associate dean for undergraduate medical education at the University of Arizona. School of Medicine and Co-Principal Investigator.

The University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix and Arizona Delta College of Dentistry are working with Harvard Medical School’s Center for Integration of Primary Care and Oral Health to develop a comprehensive curriculum that will be integrated into all four years of medical students’ training. The program will be divided into two parts, providing classroom instruction and hands-on training during the student clerkship, providing real-world experience with patients in a real clinical dental setting.

Leah Hillier, MD, is a clinical assistant professor and director of service-learning at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix. Dr. Hillier also serves as co-principal investigator of the OHMI project.

“Our patients often lack access to dental care due to financial constraints and/or lack of insurance. Physicians lack sufficient skills to complete basic oral health assessments related to how oral health affects medical conditions,” said Dr. Hillier.

While most Arizonans (77%) understand the direct link between oral health and overall health, baby boomers are less likely than other generations to understand the connection between oral health and overall health, according to the 2023 Delta Dental Arizona Adult Oral Health Survey. The connection between overall health.

Dr. Alexandraki works with medical students at the Center for Simulation and Innovation
Dr. Alexandraki works with medical students at the Center for Simulation and Innovation

“We estimate that upon completion of this program, graduates of the University of Arizona College of Medicine at Phoenix will be able to positively impact up to 180,000 patients per class each year,” said Barb Kozuh, executive director of the Delta Dental Foundation of Arizona.

“Delta Dental of Arizona's mission is to create a path to better health, and the company believes that incorporating oral health courses in medical school will provide medical students with a broader knowledge of oral health and will improve patients' quality of life – Especially people with chronic illnesses. I also believe that integrating these two components of care will ultimately reduce health care costs in the long run.

“We are pleased to have found a partner in Delta Dental who shares our commitment to improving the health of our community through an innovative and comprehensive approach to patient care.” Fredric Wondisford, MD, MS, MBA, dean of the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix. “We hope that the Oral Health Medicine Initiative will set new standards for interprofessional collaboration to promote oral health and encourage preventive care.”

About Delta Dental of Arizona

Delta Dental of Arizona (Delta Dental) is a health and wellness company providing affordable dental and vision benefits to individuals, families and businesses throughout the state. Delta Dental builds on its reputation as the state's largest and most experienced dental insurance provider with a mission to create a path to better health and wellness. Since 2010, Delta Dental of Arizona, through its foundation, has donated more than $18 million to support oral health education, disease prevention and food assistance programs in underserved and uninsured communities across the state.For more information about Delta Dental in Arizona, visit

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Alison Bailin
HMA Public Relations

Beth Smith, MBA
Senior Director of Marketing and Communications, phoenix medical school

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