ECU receives grant for dental centers in Ahoskie, Elizabeth City

Published 10:37 am Friday, October 8, 2010

GREENVILLE  – A grant of $1.76 million will help the East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine build its first two community service learning centers in northeastern North Carolina.

The three-year grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration is targeted for the planned centers in Ahoskie and Elizabeth City. The funds will help establish a dental residency program, recruit faculty staff and residents, develop and promote the dental practices to underserved patients, and providing office and dental equipment for both facilities.

Each center will be a fully functioning general dentistry office with 14 operatories, X-ray equipment, educational spaces and more. Officials are working on the property deeds for the centers there and plan to open them by 2012.

“It is especially gratifying to see our success getting the grant since no one at our school has much experience preparing such grant proposals,” said Dr. James Hupp, dean of the dental school. “Plus, the team did this work while preparing for our national accreditation evaluation. Such efforts will help us leverage state funds to replace some that we lost due to the state’s budget difficulties.”

ECU was one of 14 universities nationwide to receive grants through the competitive application process. Dr. Gregory Chadwick, associate dean for planning and extramural affairs, led ECU’s application process.

A full-time dental school faculty member will staff each center, along with dental hygienists and other staff members, and fourth-year dental students and residents will train at the centers. Chadwick has described the centers as similar to “moving the fourth floor of the dental school – the clinical training – off campus to rural areas of our state where dental services are needed.”

At their September meeting, the Ahoskie Town Council gave a favorable vote to rezone a small parcel of land from R-6 (Residential) to O&I (Office and Institution), allowing Roanoke-Chowan Community Health Center (RCCHC) will move forward with its plans to build a new medical office on Hertford County High School Road. The ECU School of Dental Medicine will build its community service learning center at the same location.

“There will be two separate facilities; ECU will own one and we will own the other, but we will all work together,” said Kim Schwartz, CEO of RCCHC.

Schwartz added that ECU plans to break ground here in Ahoskie in January and RCCHC plans to do the same a few months later.

The two facilities will be built on land recently deeded to RCCHC and ECU by Roanoke-Chowan Alliance. That entire property is 27.6 acres and includes the current RCCHC building, Northside Behavioral Health and ViQuest. The buildings will be constructed in the southwest corner of a now empty parcel of land behind those facilities.

The rezoning had to occur due to one parcel of land transferred by R-C Alliance to RCCHC and ECU was R-6 (Residential) property.

A third center is planned for Sylva in Jackson County in western North Carolina. A total of 10 centers will be built in underserved areas across the state at sites to be determined.

The School of Dental Medicine has begun its accreditation process and is interviewing its first group of applicants. The school plans to admit its first students next fall, with plans to admit 50 each year. The North Carolina General Assembly has provided about $90 million in funding for construction of the school.

The East Carolina University Division of Health Sciences comprises the Brody School of Medicine, the colleges of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences, the School of Dental Medicine, the East Carolina Heart Institute and Laupus Library. The medical school is affiliated with University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina in Greenville, N.C.