UTHSC, UTK Partner to Address Health Needs in East Tennessee

Category: Features

By Peggy Reisser

Collaborations between the UT Health Science Center and UT Knoxville aim to improve health care across Tennessee.

UTHSC and UTK ribbon cutting

As part of its effort to expand access to dental care across the state, the UTHSC College of Dentistry, with assistance from UT Knoxville, held its first dental education course in East Tennessee in April.

The Expanded Functions for Dental Auxiliary (EFDA) continuing education course took place in the UT Culinary Institute and Creamery on the UT Knoxville campus. A ceremonial “floss cutting” kicked off the class and recognized UTHSC College of Dentistry’s new presence in Knoxville.

Similarly, a continuing education class to spread the message that healthful eating is key to overall good health, the College of Medicine at UTHSC in collaboration with the UT Knoxville planned a culinary medicine continuing education class for health care professionals to Knoxville in late August.

The Introduction to Culinary Medicine class, the first of its kind in Knoxville, was also set for UT’s Culinary Institute. Participants could receive four and a half hours of continuing medical education credit.

The EFDA course trains credentialed dental assistants and dental hygienists to perform certain procedures currently done by licensed dentists, thereby expanding the delivery of dental care. These procedures include some restorative and prosthetic care, including placement of fillings, temporaries for crowns and making impressions for various fixed and removable dental protheses. Since the EFDA program began in 2006 on the Memphis campus, the College of Dentistry has qualified about 2,000 dental assistants and dental hygienists to extend the work of dentists.

“The EFDA does play a big part in addressing the access to care crisis that we have in Tennessee,” said Jerry McKinney, assistant professor and director of the Expanded Functions Programs in the UTHSC College of Dentistry. “If you have an EFDA in your office doing restorative dentistry, it can increase the number of patients seen in an office a minimum of 15% up to 40%. That’s huge.”

The culinary medicine class uses the same Health Meets Food™ curriculum that is used in the UTHSC College of Medicine to train students and residents. The program was developed to change the narrative between health care professionals and their patients about food.

Susan Warner, culinary medicine program director in the UTHSC College of Medicine, said the curriculum is suitable for physicians, advanced practice nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, dietitians, educators and anyone who wants to be more knowledgeable about cooking and eating more healthily, as a route to better overall health.

The curriculum includes instruction in basic nutrition principles and culinary skills, as well as in how fresh food prepared healthfully can be used to prevent, improve or reverse chronic diseases, such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. It merges medical science, evidence-based nutrition and culinary skills to encourage healthy lifestyles for both health care professionals and their patients and clients.

Organizers of the Knoxville program include Warner; Brynn Voy, interim head of the Department of Nutrition in UT’s College of Education, Health and Human Sciences and professor of Animal Science for the UT Institute of Agriculture; and Chef Tyler White, program manager for the UT Culinary Institute.

Voy said the mission of UT’s Department of Nutrition is essentially to optimize health and well-being through the diet. “Training health professionals in culinary medicine, through events like this continuing education course, will expand the toolkit that we can use to accomplish this mission,” she said.

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