County: Hertford County
County population: 24,433
Number of dentists: 8
Median household income: $30,878
• Ahoskie is known as the "Only One."
• The town is home to the newspaper the Roanoke Chowan News Herald.
View images from the community.
Located in the northeastern part of North Carolina, Ahoskie is about 24 miles south of the Virginia line. According to its residents, Ahoskie is a family-oriented town that is a wonderful place for children to grow up. The town is also the home of one of ECU’s School of Dental Medicine’s community service-learning centers, which opened on June 28.
ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard said the center fulfills the commitment the university and dental school made to provide care in underserved areas.
At the center, ECU dental faculty members, dental residents, and students will provide care for area citizens. Meanwhile, students and residents will learn what practicing in a community setting is like.
The center has 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.
Kim Schwartz, CEO of RCCHC, recalls the moment she found out that the service-learning center was coming to Ahoskie as "one of the sweetest professional moments" of her career.
The $3 million, 8,000-square-foot center is located next to the new medical office of the Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center, which provides primary care to low-income adults and children and should open later this year.
According to Schwartz the need for dental care is great among the area’s low-income people.
"They pull their own teeth out (and) don't recognize the early dental needs for their children," she said. "It's a perpetual cycle."
Schwartz also said that the location for the dental facility is ideal because it will allow RCCH and ECU to work together to insure that patients receive the best overall health care possible.
"We are excited to have ECU's dental facility in a family medicine environment that leverages the relationships patients have built with their doctors," she said. "Rather than the doctor saying, 'Here is a referral; you need to see a dentist,' the doctor will actually be able to walk the patient across to the dental facility right next door to receive help as soon as possible."
At the opening, Schwartz and leaders of the Roanoke-Chowan Foundation announced a grant of $83,125 to help pay for dental care for the health center's sliding-fee-scale patients at the ECU center.
Officials hope the center will help attract new dentists to a community where most dentists are at or near retirement age. Dr. Terry Hall said he came back to his hometown of Ahoskie more than two decades ago to practice dentistry.
"I'm back to being the youngest dentist in the county after 26 years," he said.
ECU dental student Mark Dobransky is from Bertie County, next door to Ahoskie's Hertford County. He said the school's mission is to serve in rural towns. "It's nice to see a tangible feature in the community," he said of the center. "I know everyone in the school is excited."