Tommasone served two years as a PHS officer at a reservation in Oklahoma after earning his dental degree at CWRU in 1968.
Officers in the PHS have Naval ranks and wear uniforms, he explains. A four-year tour of duty carries a $30,000 signing bonus, which is proportionally reduced for those who depart early. In addition, commissioned officers are entered into a lottery for an additional $30,000 tax-free stipend, which can be used to repay student loans. The chances of winning "improve enormously" for those who apply for a post in an underserved area, Tommasone said.
In addition to CWRU, dental students from Indiana University and the Universities of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Missouri are participating in the externships. Four hygienists from the University of Michigan are also serving along with the dental students.
If the externship project proves to be successful, it could be expanded to include other dental schools and additional reservations, Tommasone said. He believes it could also serve as a prototype program for recruiting dentists and physicians to serve at Coast Guard facilities and with the Bureau of Prisons, which the PHS also staffs.