As a newly minted dental hygienist in 1989, Corinna S. Culler, RDH, DrPH, participated in an international medical/dental delegation, sparking her interest in public health. She soon realized that access to dental care was a problem in the United States, as well as internationally. Culler continued to work as a dental hygienist while returning to school to further her education. Her passion for public health and academia were united when she joined the faculty of Boston University’s Goldman School of Dental Medicine (BUSDM) in 2001.
At BUSDM, Culler helped to develop a school-based oral health prevention program within Chelsea, Massachusetts public schools. This program began with oral health education and screening for all students and the application of dental sealants for second graders. In response to Chelsea’s high-risk population, which includes many newly arrived immigrants and refugees, and high rates of decay, the program evolved to include sealants and fluoride varnish for all elementary grades. BUSDM also opened a full service dental clinic in one of the Chelsea schools where Culler treated patients once a week for many years.
After earning a Doctorate in Public Health from BU School of Public Health, Culler was promoted to assistant professor and director of school-based programs, which has expanded to include a team of 11 people providing services to more than 60 schools in five Massachusetts cities. In addition, Culler is part of a team of faculty who provide first-year dental students with service learning experiences by having them participate in oral health programs in Boston’s public schools. Over the years, she has participated in training nondental professionals in oral health issues, conducting research on providing oral health counseling and evaluation during children’s well-child visits, and implementing a statewide children’s oral health survey. Dedicated to improving the oral health of all Americans, Culler is also a member of a variety of oral health committees at the state and national levels.
Your public health advocacy has focused on children. Describe your work and the outcomes you strive for.
As a member of the Better Oral Health for Massachusetts Coalition and similar groups, I have advocated for standardized oral health data collection, fluoride varnish application at medical well-child visits, and statewide water fluoridation. We promote policies that support school-based programs and public health dental hygienists, such as direct reimbursement and the ability to apply dental sealants without examination by a dentist. I am a founding member of a statewide alliance that aims to increase standardization and collaboration among portable and mobile dental care providers. I also encourage our dental students to get involved with oral health advocacy and increasing access to care. These efforts aim to decrease decay rates and improve access to care for children of all ages in Massachusetts.