Dentist finds innovative ways to treat underserved populations

Shaylee Avery, DDS, is a general dentist with the University of Utah School of Dentistry’s Rose Park Clinic. Dr. Avery is a recipient of the Health Care Workforce Financial Assistance Program (HCWFAP), a loan repayment program that is designed to support providers who serve underserved populations. She decided to pursue dentistry at the age of 17 during a humanitarian trip to the Philippines after witnessing a lack of dental care resources. In dental school, Avery realized that you don’t have to cross an ocean to help people. Many people need dental care right here in Utah. 

“Because of the HCWFAP, I am able to work in a clinic that I am passionate about and provide compassionate and competent care to communities that otherwise wouldn’t have access to it. The HCWFAP lifts the weight enough to give me freedom to move towards these populations and provide their dental care.”

-Dr. Avery

Avery became the director of Rose Park Clinic in May of 2023 and began brainstorming ways to improve the patient experience. Her hiring decisions are intended to build a team-based model to accommodate patients with barriers in accessing healthcare. 

Avery’s impact on the oral health of patients is evident throughout her practice. For example, she supported a teenage girl with significant mental health concerns through dental care. She had dental decay and disease that was made worse by her distrust of dentists. However, the oral health assistance program offered at the Rose Park Dental Clinic ensured the patient had nitrous oxide during dental treatment to make her comfortable. Thanks to the care Avery’s team provided, she didn’t miss any follow-up appointments and was able to achieve dental health. From that point on, the entire family became patients at Avery’s clinic because of the quality of care their daughter received. 

The Rose Park Clinic is “increasing oral health literacy one family at a time” and making a direct impact on the lives of underserved populations. The clinic’s ultimate goal is to help patients improve their oral health by reducing the number of no-show visits and visits to the ER. 

Due to the heavy burden of student loan debt, many new dentists work at private dental offices to maximize their earning potentials, leading to shortages of dental providers in underserved areas. Loan repayment helps bridge the gap in compensation between these dental settings to make sure that providers like Avery can fulfill the needs of disadvantaged patients, while addressing student loan debt. Click for more information about the HCWFAP.

The University of Utah School of Dentistry has dental clinics across the state of Utah. Dental care is offered at a discounted fee from dental students and residents who are supervised by licensed dentists.