The Iowa Rural Dental Health Initiative has launched a website to try match dentists with areas of the state where they are most needed. Suzanne Heckenlaible is director of government and community relations for Delta Dental of Iowa, a dental benefits company that is one of the funders of the initiative.
Heckenlaible says the strategy is to recruit dentists to rural areas and alleviate the shortages in 55 of Iowa’s 99 counties. The website is part of the FIND project, or Fulfilling Iowa’s Need for Dentists . She says the website will connect dentists looking for a practice with communities that need a dentist, but showing what the communities are like.
Hekenlaible says students at the University of Iowa Dental school are taught about the impact that can have on a community. Hekenlaible says they need to understand that they are a small business owner that contributes to the economy of the community and bring in high level professional jobs along with a key service. She says students are taught about insurance and employment laws and the things involved in owning a business.
Hekenlaible says dental students graduate with a large debt and Delta Dental helps them repay those loans. She says the project also shows dentists how they can find a place in Iowa to have a thriving practice.
Hekenlaible says they are pitching a better opportunity in rural Iowa as the cost of living is lower, the community cares and wants dentists there to provide and important service. She says many communities realize that if they don’t have a dentist, people will go elsewhere for the service and might go elsewhere for other things as well.
The Iowa Rural Dental Health Initiative is also funded by a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant and Iowa community matching grants.