Closing the gap
Anecdotal information and evidence-based data suggest that U.S. medical and dental students are not being adequately trained in the care of patients with neurodevelopmental disorders and intellectual disabilities. In his 2002 report, Closing the Gap: A National Blueprint to Improve the Health of Persons with Mental Retardation, 16th Surgeon General David Satcher identified the importance of educating doctors in the care of this patient population early in their training; however, recent survey data, compiled by Wolff, Waldman, Milano and Perlman, and released by Special Olympics International reveals that 51% of graduating dentists report never having treated a patient with intellectual disabilities, and 75% admit to feeling inadequately trained to do so. This is not, however, a new academic health care training problem. A study of 64 US medical schools done in 1980 documented that half provided inadequate didactic and clinical training in the care of this patient population.
The Underwood & Lee Clinic teaching program is working hard to solve this major public health problem.