UMKC School of Dentistry Furthers COVID-19 Vaccinations

Faculty and students incorporate vaccination opportunities into clinics, including OHKCE

In the beginning of 2021, faculty from the Department of Dental Public Health at UMKC School of Dentistry responded to a call from the executive director of KC Care Health Center to help administer COVID-19 vaccines.

“Wil Franklin contacted us and said, ‘Dentists have the knowledge and skills, and we need help. Would you consider being trained and working with our medical director to help us with vaccination efforts,’” Meghan Wendland, DDS, MPH, assistant professor UMKC School of Dentistry, said. “Our immediate response was, ‘absolutely.’ We started vaccinating at KC Care then.”


Meghan Wendland and Melanie Simmer-Beck

Once the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services updated the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act in March of 2021, dentists and dental students were authorized to vaccinate against COVID-19 in all 50 states.

“Then we got involved on a much larger scale,” Wendland said. They also got involved with the Our Healthy Kansas City Eastside initiative, providing COVID vaccines and dental health screenings at various OHKCE events.

Melanie Simmer-Beck, Ph.D., RDH, professor and chair of Dental Public Health and Behavioral Science at the UMKC School of Dentistry, said that not only was this a great opportunity to help the community, but the school’s students also benefitted because it came at a time when many educational activities had to be cancelled because of COVID-19.

“We worked with the administration, who responded with their support, and then moved forward to train dental students,” Simmer-Beck said. “Our community partners did not hesitate to have our students getting shots in arms.”

Wendland said she contacted her colleagues in the UMKC School of Nursing and Health Studies, which Wendland already worked with in interprofessional education, to help train her third-year dental students in vaccination procedures.

“They had the facilities and faculty in place to help, and they immediately agreed to set up a full week where they closed their simulation course rooms, recruited faculty and trained all 107 dental students. They are awesome partners.”

The partnership expanded to the School of Pharmacy, which resulted in training for an additional 63 students.

Simmer-Beck notes that there is a national trend toward integrating oral health into primary care, which has support from the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute.

“I think some of the students may have been a little out of their comfort zone,” Simmer-Beck said. “But it exposed them to what their practice may look like. Within 30-40 years practicing as dentists, I think community health will be widely accepted in the scope of practice.”

The UMKC School of Dentistry has continued success offering vaccinations at their dental clinic.

“We’ve been pleasantly surprised how many people are willing to get vaccinated in our dental clinic,” Wendland said. “We have quite a few patients who have been willing to get their entire series here.”

She said even more patients have been interested in getting their boosters at the clinic.

“Patients are catching on quickly that if their dentist can give them a shot in their mouth, they can give them a shot in their arm.”