College of Dental Medicine to Create Jobs, Enhance Health Care

College of Dental Medicine to Create Jobs, Enhance Health Care

The University of Central Florida Board of Trustees will consider on May 26 a proposal to establish a College of Dental Medicine at the UCF Health Sciences Campus at Lake Nona.

The college will fill a need to provide students with a local dental program, and it is expected to create at least 110 local jobs as well as an initial economic impact of $73 million. The dental college also will benefit Central Florida’s community by attracting research that could improve oral and overall health care.

“The College of Dental Medicine will mean opportunities for our local students to obtain a dental education that they must now leave our area to achieve,” said UCF President John C. Hitt. “The college will create opportunities to help more people in need of dental care who cannot afford it. And it will provide Central Florida with new jobs and an economic boost in challenging times.”

A private donor who wishes to remain anonymous is providing a $10 million donation to jump start the project. The university will secure a loan of approximately $40 million to cover the necessary startup costs. The college does not intend to seek state money for the project.

The college will be housed in a facility to be built adjacent to the College of Medicine in the heart of Lake Nona’s “medical city.”

There are only two accredited dental schools with enrolled students in Florida – one in Gainesville and one in Fort Lauderdale. And they receive many more applications than they can accept.

The initial economic impact of $73 million comes from construction and equipment costs. Once fully operational, UCF’s new college is expected to generate approximately $69 million in annual economic impact. This estimate does not include anticipated research dollars that will flow to the new school.

“This is a unique opportunity for us,” said Dr. Deborah German, vice president for medical affairs at UCF and dean of the College of Medicine. “There is a link between oral health and overall health. In fact, recent studies indicate that oral disease is often present in diabetes and cardiovascular disease. We expect to be conducting research in these areas, which will benefit our students and the community’s overall health.”

Central Florida needs dentists who will treat underserved communities. The UCF program will include service-learning projects that will reach out to rural and inner-city communities. Providing service to those who can least afford dental care will be a strong component in the curriculum, German said.

German, in her role as the vice president for medical affairs, will oversee the creation of the new dental college. Students in the medical and dental colleges will collaborate to enrich their educational experiences and to best use unique facilities, such as the College of Medicine’s anatomy lab.

Many UCF students have long wanted a local dental school.

“I wish I had this opportunity now,” said Tamra Culp, a Sarasota resident who graduated this month with a Molecular Biology and Microbiology degree and is applying to dental colleges this summer. “UCF would have been my first choice. I love UCF, and I prefer to stay close to home. Florida is where I want to practice.”

UCF’s Board of Trustees will consider the proposal at its May 26 meeting. If approved, the proposal will move on to the Florida Board of Governors for its endorsement. Then the college will seek national accreditation from the American Dental Association. UCF expects to open the college in 2014.

“The dream of a comprehensive world-class health and life science cluster at the medical city will be one step closer to reality with the addition of the UCF College of Dental Medicine,” said Rasesh Thakkar, senior managing director of the Tavistock Group, which owns Lake Nona.  “This makes perfect sense for our community and the medical city should continue to grow.”

The proposed college will enhance the health sciences cluster at Lake Nona, which is already home to the UCF College of Medicine, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Orlando and Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. The Nemours Children’s Hospital, Orlando Veterans Affairs Medical Center and a University of Florida Research and Academic Center also are under construction.