A decade in the planning, the “Dental Hospital” in Reading, Pa., will allow HDA and its partners to train members and provide care for area residents.
In an effort to put its support of bilingual patients and members into practice, the Hispanic Dental Association is finalizing plans to launch an accredited dental hospital.
That facility will be located in Reading, Pa., about 60 miles from Philadelphia. For 10 years, the idea has been on the mind of HDA CEO R. Ivan Lugo, who’s worked in the area as a clinician, teacher at Temple University, and dental director at Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health. Inspired by similar “Dental Hospital” facilities he’d seen in Ireland, Lugo discussed the idea with potential partners over the years. When he became head of HDA in early 2017, Lugo said the association was well-positioned to lead the hospital’s launch.
“HDA has really caught a moving train,” he said. “We want to ensure that there’s access and integration between medical and dental [disciplines], but within a system that allows for bilingual communities to learn and thrive.”
“We think of it as a learning platform.”
HDA has a small staff—four full-time employees plus the support of an AMC—so partnerships have been essential to the process. Chief among them is the Reading-based Institute for Leadership Education Advancement and Development, which helped broker the donation of a building in the city’s downtown by CNA Financial. To support the hospital’s education and credential components, HDA is also working with the University of Puerto Rico, Columbia University, and Harcum College.
The hospital is designed to provide dental care in an underserved community, while also fostering new ideas for providing that care elsewhere. To that end, it’s an extension of training programs that HDA already has in place. “There’s a component of learning and development,” he said. “We think of it as a learning platform that will be able to be accessed by people throughout the learning pipeline, from pre-dental students all the way through to those in dentistry or in broader areas that a related to emerging trends like digital dentistry.”
The facility doesn’t yet have an official launch date, Lugo said, nor has the HDA entirely settled with its partners how day-to-day responsibilities will be managed. But Lugo said had anticipates that the “clinical portion” of the dental hospital will be ready in the second half of 2018. “There have been different strategic partners who have seed-funded some of this over the course of 10 years,” he said. “It’s been an upstream innovation that is now beginning to get ready to launch, now that the technology is ready to do that.”
More broadly, Lugo said, the process of launching the hospital has effectively embedded an innovation lab into the association, a concept he said other organizations should consider. “Associations often have strict bylaws and very little room for innovation, or if it does it’s within certain guidelines,” he said. “But an innovation-lab component gives an association the ability to have a strategic partner to innovate rapidly, prototype quickly, and look at things from different points of view.”