Dr. Hugh Silk, a clinical associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, will deliver the keynote lecture as part of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine’s Oral Health Week in early January. 

His visit is made possible through a gift by Delta Dental of Virginia and is the fourth of an annual event designed to promote the importance of oral health in medical education.

Silk’s lecture, “Medical-Dental Integration: Where Have We Come From, Where Are We, and Where Are We Going?", will be Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015 at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine at 2 Riverside Circle in Roanoke. 

A reception starts at 6 p.m. in the school’s main lobby, with the lecture taking place at 7 p.m. The lecture is free and open to the public. Ample parking is available adjacent to the building.

Silk has long championed incorporating oral health into family medicine and community health nationally. He has also been actively involved in the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s oral health program. His teaching and advocacy at the school includes a community health clerkship for first-year students, clinical correlations for second-year students, and a required oral health interclerkship for third-year students. 

Silk is co-developer of “Smiles for Life—A National Oral Health Curriculum for Family Medicine Project,” which was awarded the Most Innovative Curriculum Award from the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine in 2007.

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine is one of only a handful of medical schools that incorporates oral health into its instruction. Students receive oral health training during their family medicine rotation.

“We are so grateful for the generous support from Delta Dental of Virginia, which has enabled us to develop, implement, and sustain such a unique oral health curriculum for our students,” said Dr. Cynda Johnson, dean of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. “Our program provides clinical training as well as lectures on general oral health, oral cancer, common pathologies, and oral manifestations of systemic disease.”

Since the medical school began its program, Carilion Clinic has added oral health components to its internal medicine residency program and Jefferson College of Health Sciences has added similar components to its physician’s assistant program.

Silk first became interested in the significance of oral health in a person’s overall wellbeing in the late 1990s, when, as a medical resident, he was dismayed to see the compromised oral health of many of his patients.

“Bad teeth and poor oral hygiene can negatively affect other conditions, such as heart disease and prenatal outcomes,” Silk said. “As a family practice doctor, I felt this was important for me to understand and to pass along to my patients for their overall health.”

Studies have shown that people who receive good dental health care not only save the health care system money, but also have higher self-esteem and confidence.

In 2011, the Journal of Academic Medicine published an article concluding that medical students receive little or no training in oral health. The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine was one of the first medical schools in the nation to include a case-based oral health curriculum component.

“We believe it’s imperative that physicians have the knowledge, clinical skill set, and comfort level to perform an oral exam and understand the significance of the findings,” said Dr. Charles “Bud” Conklin, director of Carilion Clinic’s General Dental Health Residency and an associate professor of surgery at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. “Our curriculum has received national and international recognition, with inquiries from as far away as Australia. It has been quite rewarding.”

For more information, contact the organizers of the event by email or by phone at 540-526-2205.

Written by Catherine Doss
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