Monday, November 17, 2008

MCG Dental School Offers Good Value, Great Education, Dean Says

The Medical College of Georgia School of Dentistry is one of the nation's best values in dental education, which is important in this tough economy, said Dean Connie Drisko.

The American Dental Education Association recently ranked the school 10th out of 56 public and private dental schools in terms of cost of education, she announced during her annual State of the School Address Oct. 31.

"The economy is a little scary right now. It's spooky to have the state budget cuts that we've faced, but the School of Dentistry is committed to maintaining its excellence in teaching, research and clinical services," Dr. Drisko said.

She emphasized that the students are the lifeblood of the school and praised the accomplishments of the increasingly diverse student body. Last year, 100 percent of students passed the National Board Exams on their first attempt. MCG consistently ranks among the top 25 dental schools on exam scores, she said.

Students also are assuming leadership roles in campus, state and national organizations, learning to advocate for their profession and the health of Georgia residents.

"We are truly helping to nurture and develop the next leaders in Georgia and the country," said Dr. Drisko. "I think we will have MCG graduates who one day will be the presidents of the American Dental Association, the American Dental Education Association and other regional and global groups."

In the past four years, students have pledged or given $50,000 to the school, she said. "Many schools get gifts from students once they graduate, but I could probably count on one hand schools that have had students step up to the plate for a building fund or scholarships while enrolled," Dr. Drisko added.

She noted many school highlights of the past year, including:

Increased student research – 12 students presented research at national conferences.
Expanded pediatric and oral surgery residency programs through rotations in Atlanta.
Enhanced faculty development through outlets such as American Dental Education Association Leadership Institutes, continuing education and faculty retreats.
A 29.7 percent increase in overall clinical revenue, or about $1.9 million.
A 47 percent increase in external funding and an 83 percent increase in National Institutes of Health funding.
A Georgia Dental Task Force report that validated the school's commitment to increasing class and residency sizes, improving access to care and combating the faculty shortage.
Expanded clinical outreach across Georgia.
Increased fundraising and alumni membership and support.
"We have a great school with great students, a great staff and great faculty, but we can always do more," Dr. Drisko said.

She outlined several initiatives for 2008-09, including:

Completing the design and development phase of the new dental school facility. The new school will allow the class size to increase from 66 to 100 by 2016.
Working with a consortium of schools in Atlanta to plan a seven-year curriculum that includes training in public and community health. The initiative is funded by the Josiah Macy Foundation.
Expanding partnerships locally and globally. Local partnerships include the Boys & Girls Clubs of Augusta, the Augusta Partnership for Children and outreach clinics statewide. Global partnerships include student exchanges with dental schools in China and France.
Dr. Drisko emphasized the need to stay focused on the school's mission of educating dentists to improve overall health and reduce society's burden of illness.

"Even though it's a tough time economically now, if we continue to be good stewards of our resources, we can look forward to achieving all the goals that we've put forward today," she said.

By Paula Hinely

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