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New schools tallied, both those opened and those in the works

Here’s a look at five new dental education programs—three opening this fall, one slated for 2012 and one for 2013.

  • East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine (Greenville, N.C.)

A component member of the University of North Carolina System, ECU began investigating the possibility of adding a public dental school in Greenville, N.C., about six years ago. On Aug. 15, the School of Dental Medicine launched its orientation week, welcoming its first class of 52 students. ECU, American Dental Education Association and North Carolina Dental Society officials were on hand to mark the occasion.

“Orientation is an opportunity for them to learn the technology that they’ll use in their preclinical work and bond with medical students,” said Dr. Maggie Wilson, associate dean for student affairs. “We want dental and medical students to interact with each other and learn about each other’s education programs.”

Only a couple of faculty positions required the school to re-advertise said Dr. Phyllis Horns, vice chancellor for health sciences. “We have 20 faculty members—two from the military, and 18 from other dental schools. They are high quality, talented people, mostly early- to mid-career individuals.”

Initially, some NCDS members were reluctant about opening a new school in North Carolina. Some favored a plan to expand UNC at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry’s class size instead, said Dr. M. Alec Parker, executive director of the North Carolina Dental Society. “We have been supportive of the institution and members of NCDS leadership will be on campus to welcome the incoming first-year students,” said Dr. Parker.

A state-supported joint plan for education enabled UNC-Chapel Hill to expand its research capabilities and increase class sizes, as well as fund construction of the ECU dental school building in Greenville. In 2010, ECU alumnus and orthodontist Dr. Ledyard E. Ross gave a $4 million gift to the dental school for scholarships, faculty recruitment and retention, and other academic enterprises.

State funds also support ECU’s community service learning centers in rural and underserved areas of North Carolina. Some rural areas have just three dentists for every 10,000 people, compared to urban areas where the ratio is nearly 5 to 10,000. Four counties in the northeastern part of the state have no dentists at all. Dr. Greg Chadwick, ECU associate dean for planning and extramural affairs and a past ADA president, is developing the service-learning centers. More sites are in the works.

  • Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine School of Dental Medicine (Bradenton, Fla.)

Image: Dr. Robert F. Hirsch
Dr. Hirsch
In January, LECOM named Dr. Robert F. Hirsch dean of its School of Dental Medicine, which has initial accreditation and is scheduled to open in 2012 with a class of 100 students. A graduate of Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine, Dr. Hirsch has held faculty and administrative positions at Case, Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine and the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, and a private practice in Erie, Pa.

Established in 1992, LECOM has the largest medical school in the country, with campuses in Erie and Greensburg, Pa., and Bradenton. The university also has a pharmacy school. Dr. Hirsch said that having a dental school fits with the goals of LECOM, an osteopathic university, which is to prepare students through programs of excellence in education, research, clinical care and community service to enhance the quality of life. LECOM will invest $52 million in the construction of a dental school building.

Dr. Hirsch said the school is planning some innovative educational approaches, which include the use of problem-based learning that will integrate medical and dental students in small group sessions. Dental students will be able to make full dentures in their first year, too.

“We think it’s a good fit for our simulation curriculum, and we want to try to have our students have experiences with patients as much as they could,” said Dr. Hirsch, adding that third-year students will have “as many clinical learning experiences by the end of the year as traditional schools would have in the fourth year.”

During the fourth year, LECOM students will relocate full time to a clinic for patient care and instruction under the guidance of faculty. The school is in the process of developing service learning sites and hiring faculty now.

The case for a new dental school at LECOM was made based on retirement data and reports like the U.S. Surgeon General’s 2000 report, Oral Health in America, that identified a need to increase oral health workforce diversity, capacity and flexibility, and national growth trends in dental health professional shortage areas.

“We did a demographic study of the area and we decided there was a need here especially for underserved patients in the Manatee County and surrounding area,” said Dr. Hirsch.

“This is one of our main goals: our graduates will feel comfortable to go out after they graduate in underserved areas with the experiences that we have provided them,” said Dr. Hirsch. “There is a need for dental graduates going to these areas. By the experience they have with our curriculum, they should be comfortable doing this.”

  • Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine (Downers Grove, Ill.)

Midwestern University CODM becomes the third dental school in Illinois, joining the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry and Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine in downstate Alton. Dr. Lex MacNeil is its dean.

The private, not-for-profit institution aims to graduate about 125 students a year. Midwestern Illinois has hired its complete complement of faculty for the first year and will hire incrementally for subsequent years, as well as recruit dentists from the community to serve as clinical instructors. They had more than 2,000 applicants for their first class; Dr. MacNeil said they interviewed more than 400, all of whom were strong candidates for the program.

Illinois State Dental Society representatives met Midwestern Illinois’ students at orientation ceremonies in August.

“We look forward to working with Midwestern,” said Greg Johnson, ISDS executive director. “We are trying to incorporate them just like we have with the other two schools. Our understanding is that about one-third of the students will be from Illinois and may have a good chance of coming back and practicing here, so we look forward to welcoming them to the profession.”

  • University of New England College of Dental Medicine (Portland, Maine)

The University of New England has a founding dean for its College of Dental Medicine—Dr. James J. Koelbl, a past chair of the Commission on Dental Accreditation and founding dean of the Western University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine in Pomona, Calif., which opened in 2009.

In addition to its own resources, UNE has secured initial funding through a $2.3 million grant from Northeast Delta Dental; federal grants totaling $900,000; and other external grants totaling over $1 million. A $5 million state bond initiative was approved by voters in 2010 to boost oral health access through the establishment of a school that will increase the number of dentists in Maine and northern New England.

The College of Dental Medicine submitted its application for initial accreditation and has announced a start date of 2013. “We continue to focus on curriculum development; faculty and staff hiring plans; construction simulation and clinical facilities; and student recruitment and fundraising,” said Dr. Koelbl.

There is a profound need for dental care in the region, said Dr. Koelbl. All of Maine’s 16 counties have dental health professional shortages.

Frances Miliano, executive director of the Maine Dental Association, said MDA supports the new school.

“While you’ll never get universal support from members on a new school, the MDA Executive Board wrote a letter of support way back when the promoters were seeking the vote of the Board of Trustees of the college to move forward,” said Ms. Miliano. “We have since reiterated that support by joining a coalition that promoted the state bond that will provide financial assistance directly to the school and to outreach clinics that will be used as extern sites for dental students.”

  • Roseman University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine (South Jordan, Utah)

In 2007, the University of Southern Nevada began exploring the feasibility of starting the first predoctoral dental education program in Utah. In July of this year, the school changed the name of its campus in the suburbs of Salt Lake City to the Roseman University of Health Sciences CODM.

Dr. Richard Buchanan is the college’s founding dean, and the Commission on Dental Accreditation granted the dental school initial accreditation in August. The first cohort of 64 students began classes Aug. 15.

In deciding to start a new program, the university was guided by a workforce report that showed an increased demand for dental services in the state due to population growth.

The Utah Medical Education Council, an agency created by the state to stabilize the health workforce, issued “Utah Dentist Workforce: A Study of Workforce Trends and Capacity to Provide Service” in 2006. The report found that the dentist-to-100,000-population ratio in Utah is lower than the rest of the nation—56.8 compared to 59.8 nationally—which has been declining since 2002 when it stood at 61.7. The number of dentists is decreasing with respect to the increasing population. “Utah’s population is growing at an average rate of about 2.4 percent per year and will contribute to increased demand for dental services in the state,” the report said.

There are also a lot of citizens who are eager to become dentists. Since 2000, the number of Utahns applying to dental schools has increased by 72 percent compared to 38 percent nationwide. Dr. Buchanan said that Utah has the highest per capita number of dental school applicants in the nation. Roseman was inundated with 1,250 applications for its first class and already has 1,000 applicants for next year. “With a dental education program at home, we can offer Utah residents the opportunity to be educated here rather than in other states and retain them to serve Utah communities,” said Dr. Buchanan.

“Being able to recruit enough high quality faculty is always a high priority for deans, especially at new schools,” added Dr. Buchanan, who was dean of the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine, Baylor College of Dentistry and New Jersey Dental School. He’s found that building a new program can be an asset in faculty recruitment. “We’ve had extremely good fortune,” he said. “All of our faculty want to come to a place where they can do something new. That’s the beauty of a new school—it’s sort of a blank slate that you can all write on together.”

Dr. Buchanan believes that freed from traditional constraints, Roseman, like many new dental schools, can carve out a special role in dental education. The school uses new methods of teaching that are widely used in the university’s other health professions programs, such as a block system where students focus on one topic at a time rather than enrolling in multiple courses and mastery learning educational and assessment methodology, which involves, among other things, regular assessments and extensive student/faculty interaction. There is also less emphasis on grades and more on curricular outcomes and competency.

“There’s a lot of national interest about new schools, what they’re about and if they are dedicated to quality,” said Dr. Buchanan. “The answer to that here is yes, absolutely. We are in the throes of creating a new school, and there are always some misconceptions. Another one I’ve heard is that we’re a for-profit university that doesn’t care about quality. None of us would be here if that were true. We’re here to do something special through educational innovation characterized by the highest standards of academic excellence.”

Image: tudents recite the dentist’s pledge at Roseman University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine.
Speaking out: Students from the inaugural class of 64 recite the dentist’s pledge during the Aug. 19 white coat ceremony at Roseman University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine.