ECU Board of Trustees Endorses Dental School
East Carolina, responding to a mounting oral health crisis throughout North Carolina, especially in rural areas, is proposing the creation of a school of dentistry at the university.
The ECU Board of Trustees at its Feb. 24 meeting approved the dental school proposal and called on the University of North Carolina Board of Governors to endorse it. If approved by the BOG, the initiative would go to the General Assembly.
Robbie Hill, chair of the Health Sciences Committee of the Board of Trustees, said, “We have an opportunity to create a real legacy with this school.”
Chancellor Steve Ballard, urging approval of the school, said, “We bring this proposal to you because North Carolina faces a crisis in rural oral health care and no institution, no university, is more capable of addressing this problem than ECU. We have the responsibility to move forward, to make a difference.”
Ballard said North Carolina ranks 47th out of 50 states in the ratio of dentists to population. In rural areas, he said, the problem is worse.
“Four counties in eastern North Carolina have no dentists at all and three counties have only one dentist. In many counties, especially in the eastern part of the state, residents have to drive at least two hours to find an emergency care facility that would be able to treat the dental care needs of a child,” Ballard said.
The chancellor argued that ECU knows how to improve health care in eastern North Carolina.
“The model that we have built at the Brody School of Medicine succeeds remarkably well in preparing doctors who deliver primary care and who deliver it in the rural, economically disadvantaged areas of the state.” he said.
“We will bring to the new dental school the lessons we have learned in our medical school. We will recruit and train dentists whose interest in and loyalty to the people of North Carolina is demonstrable and who will practice in the underserved areas.
“Make no mistake about this, East Carolina knows how to address this need.”