Thursday, October 1, 2009

MCG breaks ground on new School of Dentistry

The state's only dental school broke ground today on its new building, with an ultimate goal of improving access to care for underserved Georgians by increasing the state's dental workforce.

Hundreds of state and local officials, members of the dental community and Medical College of Georgia students, alumni, faculty and staff gathered on the site of the new MCG School of Dentistry building for the ceremony.

"It looks like even in this economic downturn we could wind up with two decades in a row of almost 25 percent growth in Georgia," Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue said. "How can a state with only one dental school keep up if we don't grow? The very fact is that we need more dentists in all aspects."

Georgia has 41.4 dentists per 100,000 citizens—considerably fewer than the nationwide ratio of 54.3 per 100,000, according to the American Dental Association.

"In order to produce more dentists, we have to have the appropriate facilities, both in terms of size and in terms of technology," University System of Georgia Chancellor Erroll B. Davis Jr. said. "This new facility will be as good an example of 'build it and they will come' as we can possibly do. But, more than just showing up, this building will result in 'build it and they will come – and they will stay to practice' in the state."

Now, approximately 80-85 percent of MCG School of Dentistry graduates practice in Georgia.

"While this facility has a very specific purpose related to oral health – it is, after all, the epicenter of dental education in Georgia – it will also stand as a monument to the collective effort of Georgians who believe in, work for and support a shared goal," MCG President Daniel W. Rahn said.

He thanked MCG's partners for their collaboration and support, the MCG community for living the institution's mission of better health and the former residents of Gilbert Manor, the community located on the site for nearly 70 years.

"The story we are all a part of is really about better health – not just better oral health – for the people we serve," School of Dentistry Dean Connie Drisko said. "Thank you for recognizing this important oral health and systemic health connection and for supporting the training of an expanded dental workforce to meet the needs of the state."

The five-story facility will occupy a portion of the site of the former Gilbert Manor housing project. Demolition of the Gilbert Manor property is complete and construction will begin immediately and last approximately two years. The building should be occupied by fall 2011.

The 268,788-square-foot building will be more than 100,000 square feet larger than the existing building, which opened in 1970 on Laney Walker Boulevard. The expanded space will allow the school to increase its class size incrementally from 63 to 100 by 2016, and its residency positions from 44 to 72. The increase will make the MCG School of Dentistry among the largest in the nation; only 13 of the country's 58 dental schools have a class size of 100 or more, according to the American Dental Association.

The facility will house the dental school's nine specialty clinics, two large student clinics, simulation labs, the School of Allied Health Sciences' dental hygiene program, an administration area, an expanded faculty practice and a new Center for Esthetic and Implant Dentistry. Patient visits are projected to increase significantly.

Financing for the facility's construction includes $5 million appropriated by the state in the 2008 budget, $97 million in bonds approved by the Georgia Legislature in the 2009 and 2010 budgets and nearly $7.5 million in private gifts and pledges. The Augusta Commission provided $10 million in 2008 for University System of Georgia acquisition of the Augusta Housing Authority’s Gilbert Manor property for MCG expansion. MCG is continuing to seek additional private support for the project.

Planning also is under way for the Commons, a new building that will be adjacent to the new School of Dentistry. The Commons will include classrooms, computer rooms and conference rooms for dental and medical students. Other School of Medicine facilities also are proposed for the Gilbert Manor site.

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