In 2014, Orpheus Triplett was hired by the College of Dentistry as director of Community Relations and Outreach to foster relationships with organizations throughout the community. In that role, he established relationships with Head Start, Agape Child and Family Services, New Horizon Apartments, Red Door Ministries, daycare centers, and senior citizen and nursing homes, all of which the college partners with today to offer oral health education and services.
Now as the new assistant dean of Community Oral Health and Outreach, he plans to expand on those relationships and forge new ones.
“I’m looking forward to playing a role of support and encouragement for both the faculty and the students in their community engagement activities,” Dr. Triplett, DDS, said. “And my plans are to increase the visibility of UTHSC, not only in the surrounding community, but across the state.”
As the assistant dean of Community Oral Health and Outreach, Dr. Triplett will oversee, encourage, and support community engagement activities in the College of Dentistry. He will be involved in the development and implementation of new programs, and the establishment of new relationships as it relates to the college’s public service mission.
“A sentiment being expressed is to be able to corral all the activities of community engagement within the college, in such a way as to provide timely resources, recommended oversight, and ample opportunities, as we forge new trails and paths,” Dr. Triplett said.
In addition, the College of Dentistry has established relationships with schools throughout Memphis including Freedom Prep Academy, partner for the annual Give Kids a Smile Day. Future plans are in the works to establish a relationship with Shelby County Schools to provide oral health presentations, oral health services, and mentoring for students.
“We are always in the process of developing relationships and planning activities,” he said. “We want our reach to exceed our grasp.”
Dr. Triplett plans to continue expanding the College of Dentistry’s community partnership efforts to the college’s clinical sites in Union City, Chattanooga, Bristol, and Nashville. The college’s faculty and students currently participate and volunteer with Remote Area Medical and Mission of Mercy on outreach activities locally and across the state.
“Community engagement serves not only the community, but enhances the students’ educational experience as well, since such activities serve to increase the students’ knowledge and understanding of some of the social, economic, and environmental factors faced by those being served,” Dr. Triplett said. “As more faculty get involved, more opportunities for students will become available, since faculty must be present to oversee the students.”
“It’s important for both faculty and students,” he said. “It’s a good experience so when they come back to the clinic, they understand their patients better. When you go to a patient’s community, it gives you a better understanding as to what this patient is all about. You have seen them in the clinic, but you have not seen them in their community. So being able to do both is quite beneficial to the education of our students. In treating your patient, you have to understand more than the disease entity; you have to understand the social determinants that play a role in that patients overall health, and in that way, you can better provide adequate care for them.”
Dr. Triplett is an alumnus of Alcorn State University, graduating cum laude. He earned his DDS degree from Howard University College of Dentistry and completed a General Practice Residency with the University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Dentistry. He is the recipient of many honors and awards including the College of Dentistry Dean’s Appreciation Award in 2017, a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from Congressman Steve Cohen in recognition of outstanding and invaluable service to the community in 2018, a City of Memphis Certificate of Recognition for Outstanding and Meritorious Contribution to Our Community in 2018, and a UT President’s Award Citation of Merit in 2019.