September 1, 2004 | By: Laura Skillman
LOUISVILLE, Ky.

An agreement between the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture’s Health Education through Extension Leadership program (HEEL) and the UK College of Dentistry Division of Public Health and Center for Oral Health Research takes up the challenge to improve oral health and general health across Kentucky. 

“This agreement will advance education in the area of oral health, serve has a pipeline for young people from areas of rural Kentucky to enter the dental profession and aid research programs aimed at improving the oral health and general health of all Kentuckians,” said Sharon P. Turner, dean, College of Dentistry.

Turner noted that the state of oral health in Kentucky is a formidable problem. In Kentucky , 44 percent of the residents over the age of 64 have no teeth at all – the highest rate in the United States . Kentucky also has the highest rate of oral cancer in the country.

“The partnership with the College of Agriculture is definitely a step in the right direction and we are breaking new ground in the area of public health. This partnership will allow the College of Dentistryto broaden its outreach mission, which is already substantial. The program will allow us to reach more Kentuckians and provide them with oral health education.”

Agriculture dean M. Scott Smith said the agreement, signed Aug. 26, at the Kentucky State Fair, is another important step in the progress of bringing the assets of UK ’s Cooperative Extension Service and the College of Agriculture to bear on a wide range and a new variety of problems facing rural Kentucky and the entire commonwealth.

“We believe that the Extension Service can contribute a great deal to the advancement of health education and health information in the commonwealth,” he said. “Without the support of our government partners, it would be impossible to move forward with these projects.”

UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. said the agreement combines efforts and resources that will lead to positive outcomes for the commonwealth and expands UK ’s charge as a land-grant university.

“This collaboration is innovative, it’s creative and it’s greatly needed and it will help us solve one of the toughest Kentucky uglies that we’ve got to face,” he said. “I think that as we meet the health needs of Kentuckians, UK can move up that top 20 ladder toward what we call our higher purpose mission. It’s not all about dollars, dollars help but you’ve got to do the right things for the right reasons and this will do that.”

Under the agreement, Sharlee Shirley, dental public health hygienist and assistant research professor in the UK College of Dentistry, will serve as Extension specialist for oral health. In this role, Shirley will provide statewide dental resources and educational support; serve as a liaison between the two colleges to provide applied research, education and service programming; and provide technical assistance and instruction for the Extension Service.

This partnership marks the first time a land-grant institution has shared a faculty position between aCollege of Dentistry and a College of Agriculture Cooperative Extension program.

“I have complete confidence that this innovative partnership will set the standard for dental public health outreach and it’s really going to open doors for the Cooperative Extension Service to reach the people of Kentucky ,” Shirley said.

Larry Turner, associate dean and director of the UK Cooperative Extension Service said the program will change lives.

“This partnership has great potential for further carrying out the land-grant mission by helping to bridge between Cooperative Extension Service agents in counties across Kentucky and educational resources available in Dentistry,” he said. “I’m very pleased with where we are going with this new partnership and am excited about the possibilities.”

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Contact: 

Writer: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278