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Barb Sollner, assistant professor at the School of Nursing, was skimming through the Topeka Capital-Journal when something caught her eye.

“I read an article in the Topeka paper about the Marian Dental Clinic,” Sollner said. “At the end, [Executive Director] Krista Hahn was quoted as saying she had a vision to expand the services at the clinic to include caring for the whole body, not just their clients’ mouths. So, I called her and offered to bring students to help when she was ready.”

Hahn was enthusiastic about the idea, so she and Sollner began planning. For the past three semesters, Baker students in Sollner’s Community Health Nursing course have provided hands-on knowledge and care to the clinic patients, and the successful collaboration has reaped benefits for the clinic and Baker students.

Students in the course conduct health assessments that focused on diabetes management and prevention. They also identify social determinates that predispose clients to poor health and make social services referrals when needed.

“Often the assessment findings discovered by the students changed the dental plan of care,” said Sollner.

Hahn believes the student collaboration with her dental team is saving lives, one smile at a time.

“The partnership with Baker University School of Nursing touches lives in such a way that, together, we are making our community healthier,” Hahn said. “Nurses provide a personal touch, address unmet medical needs, consult with our licensed dentists, handle case management, and arrange for further medical consultation and care.”

The collaboration has led to fantastic results. In April, each dental team member participated in diabetic glucometer training provided by Sollner. As a result of the training, the dental team can now provide patients with complimentary glucose testing when Baker students are unavailable.

The collaboration between the dental clinic and nursing students demonstrates to Hahn that the dental and medical community can work side by side and realize incredible results.

“Dentistry and medicine are often seen as two separate health care providers,” said Hahn. “This partnership demonstrates how our two professions can work together to improve population health. It’s an amazing thing to watch and be a part of.”

It’s also produced positive results for the nursing students.

“I loved being able to see that nursing has an impact on the community outside of the hospital, especially for those who would have otherwise not been able to get health care,” said junior Lauren Skrzypek. Being at Marian Dental Clinic opened my eyes to different career paths outside of the hospital . . . and reinforced the idea that a person’s health is interconnected. It is important to look at a patient as a whole rather than by looking at one specific problem of theirs.”

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