Dental Hygiene and Audiology, Speech Pathology Clinics Now in New Locations

By Ben Boulden

In December, Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology began moving into what had been office space in the Education South Building on the southern edge of the Little Rock campus, while Dental Hygiene found a new, improved location in the Freeway Medical Building where students can engage in hands-on training.

Dental Hygiene

“We’re in our new clinic now with 20 separate treatment rooms and five X-ray rooms. The clinic is beautiful also,” said Claire Tucker, Ed.D., RDH, chair of the Department of Dental Hygiene and director of the program. “With individualized treatment rooms, every patient will have their own room to eliminate the spread of aerosols to other patients and provide for patient privacy.”

UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson, right, tours the new Dental Hygiene Clinic.

UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson, right, tours the new Dental Hygiene Clinic.

Tucker said because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the program had to erect temporary barriers between dental units in its former instructional space in the Shorey Building on the Little Rock campus and gave up using seven units to create enough safe space between them.

All didactic courses in the curriculum became virtual starting in March 2020. Faculty had to quickly learn how to teach virtually, which they traditionally had taught “100% face-to-face,” Tucker said. “We hope to transition back to face-to-face in the fall while maintaining some of the aspects of virtual teaching that we found to be effective in promoting learning during the semester.”

As part of the move to the Freeway Medical Building, the program has acquired the very latest in dental technology, probably even more advanced than most of the equipment in operation in the dental practices where the program’s graduates will soon be employed, Tucker said.

“The move is great for morale among students and faculty, especially for faculty because we’ve been putting in a lot of hours balancing the extra clinical sessions along with classroom teaching,” Tucker said. “This expanded space will make it easier for us to meet accreditation standards and requirements.”

Most importantly, the new space will help students to learn while providing state-of-the-art care to patients the clinic serves.

Audiology and Speech Pathology

At roughly the same time and for different reasons, Audiology and Speech Pathology moved to its new home. For many years, the University of Arkansas- Little Rock and UAMS jointly administered the Doctor of Audiology and Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders programs, which were housed

A sound booth has been installed in the Speech and Hearing Clinic's new location in Education Building South.

A sound booth has been installed in the Speech and Hearing Clinic’s new location in Education Building South.

on the UA-Little Rock campus. A Doctor of Philosophy in Communication Sciences and Disorders was administered through a consortium between UAMS, UA- Little Rock, and University of Central Arkansas.

The collaborations ended amicably in the summer of 2019 with UA-Little Rock retaining the undergraduate program and the three graduate programs, Masters in Speech-Language Pathology, Clinical Doctorate in Audiology, and a research Ph.D., moving to UAMS.

Laura Smith-Olinde, Ph.D., professor and chair of the UAMS Department of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology, said UA-Little Rock was very gracious about the separation and gave the graduate programs continued access to the clinical education space at UA-Little Rock for more than a year to help make the transition.

“What was most important is our program came together again – the academic and the clinical sides,” Smith-Olinde said. “That has been instrumental for us because there is so much clinical teaching that goes on. When we are in the classroom setting, we will often go to the clinic to practice a technique or concept we were working on in the class. Additionally, I think it is going to raise awareness of our Speech and Hearing Clinics as being part of UAMS. We have never had that visibility before on the UAMS campus.”

The Speech and Hearing Clinic provides speech, language, literacy, and hearing evaluations tailored to an individual’s needs. An array of diagnostic equipment and materials makes it possible to evaluate communication problems experienced by clients of any age, from infants to adults.

Students in the new Speech and Hearing Clinic location practice conducting ear examinations.

Students in the new Speech and Hearing Clinic location practice conducting ear examinations.

All services at the clinic are provided by graduate students under the direct supervision of licensed and certified faculty. Student clinicians develop individualized treatment plans. Clients can receive speech, language and audiologic rehabilitation individually or in a group. Full hearing evaluations, auditory processing disorder testing, and hearing aid fitting are also provided. The Hearing Clinic also partners with several foundations to provide low-cost hearing aid options.

Smith-Olinde cited as an example a patient who has experienced a stroke whose insurance coverage for speech therapy has run out.

“We encourage them to come see us at the Speech and Hearing Clinic,” she said.

Both the Speech and Hearing Clinics and the Dental Hygiene Clinic are open to the public. They provide services at low or no cost to the patient.

Dental Hygiene offers dental services to people in the local community. Having a safe, up-to-date space for that not only benefits students and instructors, it’s a boon to patients, too.

“We feel super-blessed because I didn’t think I would see this happen,” Tucker said. “We are an educational facility, and we’re not a high revenue generating clinic. We are so fortunate to have the university’s support of our program.”