Dentistry students focus on rural care and outreach

Volunteer and clinic rotation opportunities are state wide

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Who we are

We’re the West Virginia University School of Dentistry.
We’re Mountaineers. 
We specialize in thriving in rural West Virginia.
We want our state and its residents to always make the best first impression.
We don’t just emphasize the importance of oral health care, we teach best practices to our friends and neighbors.
We deliver treatment to our patients from Wheeling to Bluefield and Martinsburg to Parkersburg.
We insist on serving all West Virginians, those close to us and thousands beyond the brick and mortar of our clinics in Morgantown.

What we do

Through the West Virginia Institute for Community and Rural Health, the school collaborates with rural dental offices, local government, school districts and non-profit organizations for mentoring and service-learning experiences. 

With the support of a talented and dedicated rural faculty, the School of Dentistry Dental Practice and Rural Health program provides a unique and stimulating environment for training dental and dental hygiene students.

Dentistry and dental hygiene students must complete several weeks of supervised patient care during rotations with one of 63 partnering clinics, private practices and community centers.

From July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017, students performed 17,225 clinical procedures while treating 8,807 patients.

Where we’ve been

Ermias Semaie, a Silver Spring, Maryland native, spent several weeks on rural rotation working with Dr. Cody Lockhart and Dr. William Klenk at New River Gorge Dental in Hico, West Virginia. Like every student on rural rotation, Semaie was encouraged to get to know his new community.  He posed with Lockhart and Klenk near the New River Gorge Bridge, the longest steel span bridge in the western hemisphere.  Dental and dental hygiene students are prepared to provide a wealth of information, education and service within the communities where they work.

Ermias Semaie visited the New River Gorge Bridge during his rural rotation.
Dr. Cody Lockhart, Ermias Semaie (student) and Dr. William Klenk
take a break from rural practice to take in the New River Gorge view.

At the same sight more recently, students provided information to hundreds of spectators at the annual Bridge Day celebration concerning tobacco cessation, sugar consumption and oral hygiene instructions.

School of Dentistry students volunteer at Bridge Day.
School of Dentistry students made an impression with
hundreds of visitors at Bridge Day.

West Virginia Health Right is another volunteer program that provides care for patients without insurance and limited means to pay for care. Faculty, students and staff work closely with Health Right groups in Ohio and Harrison Counties.

Fall of 2017, professor Dr. Elizabeth Kao took third and fourth year students, along with some recent alumni, to volunteer in Kanawha County with the Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps. Hundreds of patients were seen. School of Dentistry volunteers spent more than 10 hours providing care.

Students volunteer through Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps.
The School of Dentistry supports WV Health Right missions
across the state providing care to rural communities.


A summer partnership with Special Olympics of West Virginia has been ongoing for years. At the 2017 Special Smiles event, the WVU School of Dentistry provided 55 volunteers, two dentists, three dental hygienists, 27 dental students and 24 dental hygiene students to do oral health screening on 94 athletes. The number varies each year.  The dental students, dental hygiene students, alumni and other dental providers have participated in the Summer Games every year since 2002

The School of Dentistry volunteers with WV Special Olympics.
The School of Dentistry has helped with Special Smiles
for more than 15 years.