The UTHSC College of Dentistry will welcome Rear Admiral (Upper) Timothy Ricks, Chief Dental Officer of the U.S. Public Health Service and Assistant Surgeon General of the United States, October 7 and 8 for a two-day visit on campus.
“This is an incredible honor for our college and the UTHSC campus,” said James C. Ragain, Jr., DDS, MS, PhD, FICD, FACD, dean of the UTHSC College of Dentistry. “The Assistant Surgeon General of the United States does not routinely visit dental schools.”
Rear Admiral Ricks is charged with overseeing the dentists who serve in numerous federal agencies including the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Health Service Corps, the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Indian Health Service.
In addition, Rear Admiral Ricks serves as the spokesperson on oral health for the nation’s doctor, U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Jerome M. Adams, MD.
His visit to UTHSC will include a presentation of the Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health to faculty, staff, and students in the College of Dentistry. Rear Admiral Ricks currently leads the development of the report, which will be the second report of its kind following the first Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health published in 2000.
“It really is an honor to have Rear Admiral Ricks share with us updates to oral health and policy that might have a major impact on oral health care,” said Orpheus Triplett, DDS, assistant dean of Community Oral Health and Outreach in the College of Dentistry. “His report will show us how we’re faring with our efforts to manage oral health care and to increase access to care to the many underserved communities and individuals throughout the country.”
Tennessee is ranked among the states with a shortage of dental health professionals, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
The College of Dentistry is diligently striving to provide care to the many underserved areas in the state. It has expanded its reach beyond Memphis, opening clinics staffed by faculty and students doing clinical rotations in cities including Bristol, Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Nashville. It’s also increased enrollment numbers for continuing education programs such as the Expanded Functions for the Dental Auxiliary, which trains and certifies registered dental assistants and hygienist to perform certain procedures only done by dentists, such as fillings and temporaries for crowns.
The college envisions Rear Admiral Ricks’ visit will enlighten students to the opportunities available in the U.S. Public Health Service.
“We want our students to be aware of scholarship funding, such as the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program that is available to them if they choose to practice in underserved areas,” said Cassandra Holder Christiansen, RDH, MPA, EdD, director of School-Based Programs and Community Outreach in the College of Dentistry. “Because of the amount of community engagement we do within the college, it really piques the student’s interest in serving.”
Following a nationwide trend, the college has increased its participation in campus-wide interdisciplinary service in the community. This allows health care providers to observe how their practices may overlap, and how they communicate with one another so that patients have better outcomes.
“It has to be a team approach to the management of a patient,” Dr. Triplett said. “Rear Admiral Ricks’ visit and his presentation of what is being done, is going to bridge that gap. It is unique that the Surgeon General is a physician and the Assistant Surgeon General is a dentist, and I think that shows a deliberate effort to promote the team approach to the delivery of health care.”
A bio of Rear Admiral Ricks can be read at the following: