A New Direction in the School of Dentistry
About 80 percent of dentists practicing in West Virginia – and 25 percent of dental hygienists – are graduates of the WVU School of Dentistry. For the past half-century, the School has done an excellent job fulfilling its mission to train oral health professionals.
Well aware of the state’s significant need for better oral health, the School and its leadership are entering a period of fundamental change that will accommodate a larger student body, provide more care directly to patients, and expand opportunities for specialty training of graduate dentists.
More space for teaching and for dental care
Dental training requires each student to spend considerable one-on-one time with patients, providing care under close faculty supervision. Although equipment has been upgraded periodically since the School of Dentistry’s opening in 1957, the footprint and infrastructure for teaching and clinical services are essentially the ones built in the 1950s.
Most dental graduate programs and faculty practices will move off campus over the summer, making room on campus for dental undergraduates and dental hygiene students to treat additional patients. This is a temporary solution to space issues and will require faculty and students to travel between the facilities.
The dental faculty has taken an entrepreneurial approach to its space issues. The School has secured rented space in Suncrest Towne Centre where the faculty practice will have room to expand the scope of its services and treat a larger number of patients. Revenue from this practice center will help support all the School’s missions.
This is an important, creative step by Health Sciences Center faculty and staff to develop fresh ways to bring in new revenue, especially given our current budget constraints.
New teaching programs
The new off-campus center and the space it frees up on campus will have an immediate, positive benefit for our training programs.
West Virginia ranks last among all states in adult gum disease and preventing childhood tooth decay. We have a particular need for periodontists and pediatric dentists. The WVU Board of Governors recently approved a post-graduate periodontics program, and a similar initiative for a pediatric dentistry specialty is also in development.
The School of Dentistry’s proposed building
Our long-term success, growth, and continued accreditation will require construction of a new dental building to accommodate undergraduate and graduate programs, faculty practices, and other School of Dentistry operations under one roof. We are planning a multi-story facility, including space for future expansion, which will serve as the state’s largest resource for oral health teaching, practice, and research.
The steps the School is taking today to develop a more self-sustaining economic model are the crucial to achieving this long-term goal. We expect the building and its equipment to cost approximately $124 million. It has been identified as a strategic priority, and WVU will actively seek additional state, federal, and charitable contributions to move this proposal toward completion in 2018.
Christopher C. Colenda, MD, MPH
Chancellor for Health Sciences