East Carolina University to build dental center at Davidson County Community College

Community Service Learning Center rendering

June 1, 2012 – The Triad will soon be home to a facility that officials say will bring dental care to low-income underserved residents while providing educational opportunities to East Carolina University dental students.

That was the message today as leaders of Davidson County Community College and the ECU School of Dental Medicine announced plans to build a “community service learning center” on the DCCC campus.

ECU will build the facility on land donated by DCCC. The Davidson County Health Department has also been a partner on the project. Construction dates will be announced later.

At the center, the sixth ECU has announced since it began its new dental school in 2008, fourth-year dental students and dental residents will hone their patient-care techniques and learn the ins-and-outs of operating a community practice under the eyes of experienced faculty members. 

The $3 million, 8,000-square-foot center is one of up to 10 ECU plans to build across the state. The first center is scheduled to open in Ahoskie later this month. Others are planned for Elizabeth City in eastern North Carolina, Lillington in the central part of the state, and Sylva and Spruce Pine in the mountains.

“We are very excited about our partnership with Davidson County Community College, the county health department and the local dental community and look forward to providing quality dental care to residents of Davidson and the surrounding counties,” said Dr. Gregory Chadwick, interim dean of the School of Dental Medicine at ECU.

Mary Rittling, president of DCCC, said she’s excited about the partnership with ECU. “At DCCC, we are truly a central gathering place for the county, and we look forward to offering yet one more service to the community,” she said. “‘Community’ is the most important part of our name, and this dental clinic epitomizes our mission to serve the people of this region.”

The center will have 16 dental chairs and will employ local staff members, including 1.5 full-time dental faculty positions, a business manager, five to six dental assistants, two to three dental hygienists and two general dentistry residents. Four to five students will be at the center for nine-week rotations.

Once open, the center will provide a variety of services, including general, preventive and emergency dental care and will include services such as crowns, root canals and bridges.

The setting will provide students and dental residents with an opportunity to learn what practicing in a community setting is like. The school admitted its first class in 2011, and all students are North Carolina residents. Goals of the school are to improve access to dental care, to educate minority dentists and to produce dentists who have a desire to practice in underserved areas.

“The ECU approach – educating students and residents in our community service learning centers – could become a future model for dental education,” Chadwick said. “Community service learning centers are more than just dental clinics. They are an integral part of our dental school where our seniors will spend much of their fourth year.”

North Carolina ranks 47th out of the 50 states in the number of dentists per capita, according to the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Many people without good dental care live in rural areas, where North Carolina averages three dentists for every 10,000 people. That compares to urban areas of the state, where the ratio is nearly five dentists for every 10,000 people. Nationally, the ratio is six dentists for every 10,000 people.

Davidson County has fewer than 2.6 dentists for every 10,000 people, according to the Sheps Center.

Four counties, all in the northeast, have no dentists: Gates, Tyrrell, Hyde and Camden.

ECU hopes the centers will help improve the status of dental health in the state while adding an innovative educational aspect to dental school.

“We’ve taken the fourth floor of the dental school – the senior year clinical area – we’ve stretched the wires and we’re moving that part of our dental school to communities across the state where dental services are needed,” Chadwick said. “We are not only providing much needed care, but we are also educating our future dentists in areas similar to where we hope they will practice.”

The center will be built on the main DCCC campus in Thomasville. Construction will be paid for with funds appropriated by the state to ECU. Davidson County added its support to the project last year when commissioners appropriated funds to help with other expenses, including the relocation of parking spots for students and other site improvements. Additionally, the CSLCs will generate revenue through patient care each of the centers will provide.

About the partners …

East Carolina University is a 105-year-old public university nationally recognized for preparing teachers and rural family physicians and for its cultural and performing arts programs. It enrolls more than 27,000 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students and is North Carolina's largest producer of education professionals and baccalaureate-trained nurses. It is home to the Brody School of Medicine and a growing undergraduate Honors College in Greenville, N.C.

Founded in 1963, Davidson County Community College is noted for its quality educational programs and services. As one of 58 institutions within the North Carolina Community College System, DCCC offers studies in more than 50 degree programs. A fully-accredited, multi-campus college, DCCC will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2013. It is committed to developing minds, inspiring imaginations, and preparing students for enhanced career and educational opportunities within a changing global environment. Visit Davidson County Community College on the Web at davidsonccc.edu.