GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – The East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine has received a national award for its advances in social mission — from addressing the oral health care gap in rural North Carolina communities to providing access to dental education for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The school was presented a Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation Award for Excellence in Social Mission in Health Professions Education on March 28 during the 2022 Beyond Flexner Conference in Phoenix. The award was one of four Macy Awards presented, and the only honor given in the Institutional Excellence category.

The social mission encompasses initiatives that teach or improve quality of life in areas including community engagement, diversity, health disparities reduction, value-based care, and impact on the social determinants of health.

“We are inspired by ECU’s vision of creating leaders with a passion to care for the underserved and by their innovative community-based, service-learning model for educating oral health providers,” said Dr. Claire Pomeroy, chair of the award selection committee.

The Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, which advances health care through education, created the awards program in 2016 to recognize excellence for social mission in health professions education. The program was developed in collaboration with the Beyond Flexner Alliance, a national movement focused on health equity and training health professionals as catalysts of more equitable health care.

The School of Dental Medicine and its model of eight community service learning centers (CSLCs) situated across North Carolina were created on a foundation of social mission. Fourth-year students complete three, nine-week rotations at CSLCs across the state, giving them exposure to the cultural differences, unique health care challenges, and specialized needs of different rural communities.