High blood pressure. Irregular heartbeat. Shortness of breath. Patients found to have these symptoms often have to postpone dental care to seek services of a medical professional.
At UTHealth School of Dentistry, these patients now have the option of going to a new UT Physicians Community Clinic inside the school. UT Physicians is the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.
“Each year, we see approximately 20,000 new patients in our student, resident and faculty practice (UT Dentists) clinics,” said Dean John Valenza, DDS, “and a significant number of them don’t have a primary care provider. As a consequence, they have undiagnosed or undertreated medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease.”
With a UT Physicians clinic inside the school, some patients may be able to be treated and resume their dental appointments that day. More often, though, they will be treated at the on-site clinic initially, then connected with a UT Physicians primary care medical clinic in their home communities.
“We are uniting our goals to improve the overall wellness of everyone who enters the doors of UTHealth,” said Andrew Casas, chief operating officer of UT Physicians and senior vice president of UTHealth. “The missions of UTHealth School of Dentistry, UT Dentists, and UT Physicians closely align. We don’t want to address just one aspect of health. This partnership represents the very best of what the university can offer the public.”
Valenza said poor systemic health can have a negative impact on oral health, “so helping these patients with medical care is in line with our vision of improving oral health by improving overall health.”
UT Physicians clinics will also be referring patients to the school, sometimes offering special services, such as $19 flu shots (for dental patients only).
School of Dentistry Professor Karen Novak, DDS, PhD, special assistant to the dean, led a team effort to assess feasibility and then establish the clinic in cooperation with UT Physicians. With that accomplished, Novak recently announced that Associate Professor Gargi Mukherji, DDS, of the Department of General Practice and Dental Public Health, will coordinate oral health care with the UT Physicians clinic going forward.
UT Physicians Senior Practice Manager Adrienne Finley, MPH, MS will oversee the clinic, where patients will be seen by a family nurse practitioner, Rachell Nguyen, DNP, RN, NP-C, and medical assistants Thalia Quintanilla and Julissa Luna. Thomas Murphy, MD, is the medical director.
The UT Physicians clinic hours will match those of the School of Dentistry’s clinics, which vary by semester. Call 713-486-4000 for the current schedule. To access the clinic brochure, visit Go.uth.edu/UTP-dental.