WVU Health Sciences programs provide first-of-its-kind tobacco treatment certification for students | WVU Today

As part of its mission to provide comprehensive oral healthcare and support overall patient wellness, WVU School of Dentistry students provided oral cancer screenings and tobacco and nicotine cessation education as part of an on-campus awareness initiative in September 2021.
(WVU Photo)

Fueled by a desire to reduce the burden of disease and illness for the citizens of West Virginia, four West Virginia University Health Sciences academic programs have integrated nationally-recognized Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist training into their curricula.

WVUs Certified Tobacco Treatment Training Programone of only 25 programs in the world accredited by the Council for Tobacco Treatment Training Programs and the first of its kind developed within a school of dentistry, began offering certification courses in 2018 for healthcare providers in the region.

Upon graduation, students enrolled in the Dental Hygiene, Dental Surgery, Pharmacy and Physician Assistant programs will become the first health sciences graduates in the US to earn certification as part of their academic training program, enabling them to better support the communities they will serve.

“Clinicians have identified a lack of tobacco treatment training as a roadblock in providing cessation services,” Suann Gaydos, Certified Tobacco Treatment Training Program director, explained. “Our students will graduate with increased knowledge, confidence and skills needed to reduce future patients’ tobacco-related disease and death.”

As the School of Dentistry’s program evolved, the leadership team expressed interest in beginning an initiative to integrate training into each school’s curriculum and increase our tobacco treatment outreach, Gaydos said.

West Virginia continuously ranks among the top three states with the highest tobacco use prevalence rate (25.2%), nearly two times the national average (14%). Youth in West Virginia are also much more likely to be current smokers and engage in e-cigarette use, or vaping, than those in other states across the country.

National statistics indicate that 70% of tobacco users have a desire to quit, and a 2019 youth behavioral risk survey found that 53% of West Virginia high school students tried to quit tobacco use within the last year, but have been unable to stop their use due to a high level of nicotine addiction. In addition, fewer than 5% of individuals who want to quit receive behavioral counseling and tobacco cessation pharmacotherapy.

In addition to receiving tobacco cessation education through their coursework, students in WVU’s programs must complete an eight-hour tobacco treatment training review session to fulfill delivery of all the tobacco competency skill sets required for certification. Following the session, participants must pass the certification examination with a score of at least 80% and acknowledge that they are tobacco free.

Ultimately, the routine incorporation of the Certified Tobacco Treatment Training Program into curricula of all five WVU Health Sciences schools – Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Public Health – is envisioned to expand certification for hundreds of graduates each year.

Tobacco Treatment Specialists are able to target an individual’s nicotine addiction level and provide effective, evidence-based interventions using pharmacotherapy and counseling. The tailored approach has proven to have greater tobacco abstinence rates when compared to traditional methods.

Tobacco Use Disorder is a chronic relapsing disease and remains the leading cause of preventable death in the world. Smoking causes multiple health disparities such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, loss of dental periodontium and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Diseases such as oral, pancreatic and esophageal cancer, along with periodontal disease / gingival attachment loss, dental caries and an increase in stroke and heart disease, are associated with smokeless tobacco.

Tobacco use adversely affects the health of everyone, but especially that of young people. Youth tobacco use, including vaping, also harms the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood and impulse control. Children who are exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, middle ear disease, more severe asthma, respiratory symptoms and slowed lung growth.

Reducing tobacco use throughout West Virginia could also contribute to a decrease in substance use. Studies show that individuals with substance use disorder are less likely to return to drug use if they are tobacco free.

(Editor’s Note: The tobacco treatment training review for students will take place Monday, April 11, from 8 am to 5 pm at the WVU Health Sciences Center. Session details are available on the full schedule. Media planning to attend should contact tdscatterday @ hsc .wvu.edu or [email protected])


jw / 04/07/22

MEDIA CONTACT: Jessica Wilmoth
WVU Health Sciences
304-293-9528; [email protected]

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