April 09, 2012

Davis sharing dental hygiene expertise in Finland

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Joan M. Davis, a professor in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s dental hygiene program, is spending the month of April in Finland through the Fulbright Specialist Program this semester.

Davis is at Turku University of Applied Sciences in Turku, Finland, where she will teach and lecture dental hygiene students there in areas that include tobacco dependence education and health promotion-disease prevention. Davis is participating in the Fulbright Specialist Program as a scholar, and will also discuss with university officials there different ways to deepen the existing cooperation between SIU Carbondale and Turku University.

“Selection as a Fulbright scholar is very prestigious, and further acknowledges Professor Davis’ scholarly contributions,” Chancellor Rita Cheng said.  “In addition to sharing her knowledge with students in Finland, I am confident she will help to strengthen our important relationship with Turku University of Applied Sciences.”

Dental hygiene students from SIU Carbondale and Turku University worked together on case studies and discussions in an online classroom setting via “Saluki Global Classroom,” and Davis was among a delegation of College of Applied Sciences and Arts faculty who visited the university in 2008.  The two universities have had a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in place since 1989.

Davis is one of more than 400 U.S. faculty and professionals who will travel abroad this year through the Fulbright Specialist Program, which provides short-term academic opportunities “to support curricular and faculty development and institutional planning at post-secondary academic institutions around the world,” according to the organization.

“I’m thrilled.  It’s quite an honor,” Davis said.  “To be selected with all of these scholars from throughout the nation is pretty exciting.  I look forward to working with their students.”

Davis said she will be on the Fulbright Specialist Program list for five years.

“Professor Davis is recognized internationally as an expert in the field of tobacco cessation and the integration of tobacco cessation into health care curriculums and health care delivery,” said Charla Lautar, director of the School of Allied Health in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts.

Lautar said Davis may be the first faculty member in the University’s dental hygiene program and possibly the School of Allied Health to attain the distinction as a Fulbright Scholar.

Davis, who has 37 years in the dental health field, developed the “Tobacco Free!” online curriculum through a grant from the American Dental Hygienists’ Association Institute of Oral Health. The training materials have been requested by more than 300 dental and dental hygiene programs in the United States and internationally.

While Davis will work specifically with dental hygiene program faculty she also hopes to work with other health care units within the university.  She will lecture to both medical and dental health care students, as well as provide in-service training for the health care faculty.  She will present lectures for different nursing degree student groups at the university’s campuses in Ruiskatu and Salo, and to different physiotherapy student groups.  Depending on the available time Davis could also help with program evaluations and faculty development programs.

Davis has toured numerous dental hygiene programs throughout Europe and estimates that they are about 90 percent the same, and each has similar treatment goals.  One difference, she said, is that those countries have socialized medicine.

“For the most part we don’t, so access to care isn’t as big of an issue as it is in the United States,” she said.  “That’s true of any health care issue.”

Davis hopes that her trip deepens the existing relationship between the two universities and opens the potential for faculty and student exchanges.

The Fulbright program, now in its 66th year, provides grants for college and university faculty and administrators to lecture and conduct research in countries around the world.  The program was the creation of then freshman U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas as a way to promote “mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries of the world,” according to the organization.