Pacific University Dental Van Aids in COVID-19 Screening

dental vanThe COVID-19 pandemic has put Pacific University’s dental hygiene community outreach on pause, but the School of Dental Hygiene Studies is still making its contribution to public health. The university’s dental van, which typically is used to take dental hygiene services to schools, assisted living centers and migrant workers, is currently serving as part of a mobile testing site operated by Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Centers.

Parked two days a week at Yamhill County Fairgrounds in McMinnville, the van is part of a COVID-19 testing site. As of late April, about 200 people had been tested between that site and another VGMHC runs at the Hillsboro Stadium.

Patients are prescreened through telemedicine visits with healthcare providers, who clear them for drive-through testing. On site, Virginia Garcia providers provide a packet of information and, if needed, letters for their employers, face masks and thermometers. Patients then get a nasal swab, the results of which are available in two to three days.

Yadira Martinez DHS ’08 is a Pacific alumna who works as a dental hygienist at Virginia Garcia and also serves as president of the Oregon Board of Dentistry. She first recognized the opportunity for Pacific and Virginia Garcia to partner with the van at the testing site, based on their shared commitment to community healthcare for underserved populations. “I love community service,” said Martinez, who worked at Virginia Garcia prior to attending Pacific and was rehired upon completing the two-year bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. “I wouldn’t work in any other setting.”

Martinez said that about 10 to 12 percent of Virginia Garcia patients, who are often from low-income or immigrant populations lacking insurance, are testing positive for COVID-19 — about twice the statewide rate.

Thursday, April 30, 2020