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TCDM Grad Returns to Touro as First Special Needs Fellow

Posted on Friday, December 17, 2021

This one-year fellowship program focuses on advanced training in providing care for people with special needs, particular those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

“This gap we are seeing in dentistry and dental education is widespread,” said Jonathan Teyan, Chief Operating Officer for NYSADC. “New York’s State’s six public and private academic dental centers, including Touro College of Dental Medicine, want to ensure that we are doing everything we can to fill these holes and that begins with providing new dentists with the skills they need to properly care for these patients.”

The fellowship’s educational program, which was made possible by generous support from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, aims to begin bridging the gap between specialized dentists, who can effectively treat adult patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities, a population that is often left behind, with general dentists.

“Training the next generation of dentists who can provide high-quality, compassionate care to all patient populations is the cornerstone of our educational approach at Touro College of Dental Medicine,” said Ronnie Myers, DDS, Dean at TCDM. “Those with intellectual and developmental disabilities deserve access to dentists who can meet their needs in an affordable manner. By equipping more dentists with the skills needed to serve this population, patients can hopefully avoid the unnecessary costs and wait times that come with having care done in the operating room, a standard practice for many patients who lack access to this unique care. This fellowship will unlock the door to start growing the much-needed network of general dentists who can provide for patients with special needs.”

While many pediatric dentists work well with the special needs population, as these patients become adults, their needs shift away from the care pediatric dentists are able to provide. Because many cannot find a general dentist who can offer them treatment effectively in-office, these patients end up on operating room waitlists for months at a time and eventually, their dental care becomes deprioritized.

The hope is that, as more dentists complete this fellowship program, a network of advocates and dentists who can train students to work with these patients will be built, thus beginning to fill the disparities in the quality, cost, and the frequency of care this patient population receives.

“The launch of this fellowship is as much about providing a greater awareness of these shortcomings we see in dental care and a creating a better source of advocacy for these patients as it is about training new dentists with these important skills,” said Susan DiSenso-Brown DDS, Assistant Professor & Course Director for the Oral Healthcare for Patients with Special Needs at TCDM. “Having a TCDM graduate like Dr. Dorrough be the first to participate in this important fellowship is a wonderful first step in creating the system needed to close the gap in quality of care for this patient population.”

DiSenso, along with Raquel Rozdolski, DMD, Assistant Clinical Professor and Director of Anesthesia and Pain Control, are the program directors for the fellowship curriculum at TCDM, coordinating with the NYSADC in the overall conceptualization of the program.

After graduating from TCDM in 2020, Dorrough was originally set to spend his general practice residency at Helen Hayes Hospital. However, his plans were complicated by COVID when the funding for his program was no longer available and it closed.

After spending a year as a resident at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and shifting his plans, Dorrough, who had always aspired to work with special needs patients through a pediatrics track, applied to this newly available fellowship and was placed at TCDM to begin the training and serve as a resource for other students and dentists.

“COVID changed my plans and residency at the last minute. However, we’ve gotten through it, and I have been very fortunate.,” Dorrough said. “When I was approached about applying to this unique opportunity, I realized that my life experiences and demeanor have actually been preparing me to uplift and edify the lives of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. My number one goal while training in the fellowship is to build the skills needed to ensure each unique patient has a positive experience receiving care.”

In addition to his clinical responsibilities, Dorrough will devote 20 percent of his fellowship year to teaching and/or research in partnership with TCDM. He has also committed to at least one-year post-fellowship, providing care to patients with special needs and continuing his teaching and research responsibilities. Outside of the fellowship, Dorrough will also continue working at the Westchester Institute for Human Development.

“I would love to help this program grow, not only here at TCDM but for other dental schools to start their own programs,” Dorrough said. “It’s not an easy undertaking, but this fellowship is absolutely a step in the right direction. Anyone who is interested in applying is welcome to talk to me; I’m more than happy to tell you what change this fellowship will enable you to make in the world.”

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