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Coppola Receives AAPHD Award

Sara Coppola (MS 2015)

Ann Arbor, MI — May 13, 2016 — A graduate of the School of Dentistry’s Master of Science in Dental Hygiene Program  was recognized by the American Association of Public Health Dentistry for her public health research during the organization’s national conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Sara Coppola (MS 2015) was an honorable mention recipient of the Leverett Graduate Student Merit Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dental Public Health, for her study on the factors affecting economic sustainability of the Registered Dental Hygienist in Alternative Practice (RDHAP).

Coppola, an RDHAP, provides dental hygiene services in California to those who have limited access to care, primarily in board and care homes.  Although there are over 500 licensed RDHAPs, she said, “Not all are practicing, or only doing so part-time, and I wanted to understand why.”

To do so, Coppola conducted a survey in fall 2014 that asked RDHAPs questions related to the economic sustainability of their work which included the need for strategic planning and alliances, effective patient flow, optimal staffing patterns and efficient business systems.  The study concluded that RDHAP not only serves the underserved, but also provides clinical care safely, efficiently and non-traditionally. However, due to our evolving healthcare system with an increased emphasis on interprofessional collaboration, RDHAPs should consider aligning their practices with community-based clinics, Federally Qualified Health Centers and Dental Support Organizations (DSOs) that have a commitment to prevention and have financial resources and staff to manage practice business systems. Coppola noted, “This approach could be a win-win for the patients who will be receiving care as well for the RDHAP who is providing care while also having the ability to earn a living.”

“This project was important to me because the RDHAP workforce model, like PA 161 in Michigan, provides opportunities for dental hygienists with remote supervision from a dentist, to deliver preventive services to vulnerable and underserve populations. It is important that this model not only flourish to provide much needed care for patients, but also be a viable source of income for dental hygiene providers,” she said.

Coppola’s study was the focus of her thesis research during the MSDH Program. Her thesis committee members included Janet Kinney, Anne Gwozdek, Danielle Furgeson, and Margherita Fontana.

The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care, and community service.  General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the School to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan.  Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists, and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia, and public agencies.  Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide.  For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit us on the Web at:

Sharon Grayden, Communications Director (734) 615-2600,