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A unique role for dental school faculty: Telephone triage training and integration into a health departments’ emergency response planning

Jill B. Fernandez, RDH, MPH, David L. Glotzer, DDS, Marc M. Triola, MD, Walter J. Psoter, DDS, PhD


Objective: Dental professionals with proper training and integration into existing protocols for mobilization can be one additional re-source during catastrophic events. A pilot project on training of dental school faculty in telephone triage in the event of an avian flu pandemic is described. A partnership was established with a grant from the Department of Justice/Department of Homeland Security, between the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and New York University to initiate a pilot program to increase the manpower resources available to the health agency should an overwhelming public health event be present in the New York City area.
Methods: Eight faculties from New York University College of Dentistry were selected to receive telephone triage training consisting of 15 hours of formal presentations. This training was specifically designed to give participants a background in “outbreak investigations,” and included a mock influenza outbreak. Also, a “phone triaging” training during a surge event was practiced.
Results: The training resulted in enabling alternative healthcare providers as capable personnel and one alternative source for a surge manpower pool. This was the innovative use of dental school faculty to bolster critically understaffed and overwhelmed areas in the NYCDOHMH infrastructure, such as call centers and for telephone triage, in their disaster scenarios, particularly in their response to avian flu.
Conclusions: The established public health systems and medical community must understand the need to preplan for medical surge events and accept that a potential source of additional manpower could be the dental profession or other nontraditional healthcare personnel.


Avian flu, surge capacity, telephone triage, dentists, syndromic surveillance, call centers

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