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Year’s Top Stories – #7

AHOSKIE — In the not too distant future, healthcare opportunities in Ahoskie will grow by nearly 50,000 square feet.

As reported in our Sept. 6 edition, officials with Roanoke-Chowan Community Health Center (RCCHC) and the East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine formally broke ground on a twin facility that is the first of its kind in North Carolina.

RCCHC will construct a 40,000 square foot Health Center facility, funded by a $6.2 million federal grant from the Affordable Care Act.  Meanwhile, the ECU School of Dental Medicine will construct an approximate 8,000 square foot Service Learning Center. That stand-alone center, which will adjoin RCCHC’s Health Center facility, will include 16 dental chairs and be staffed full-time by ECU faculty dentists, residents, and students. ECU will hire additional staff locally. The Ahoskie site is the first is among 10 ECU Service Learning Centers to be located across North Carolina.

Construction is under way on the two facilities, located off Hertford County High School Road behind Viquest, that will be linked together by a covered walkway.

This joint effort began early in 2008 when Dr. Tom Irons, of the then fledging ECU School of Dental Medicine, returned a telephone call to RCCHC CEO Kim Schwartz.

“We knew at that time we had something pretty amazing,” Schwartz said. “This partnership is the very first of its kind in the nation, one between a community health center and a dental service learning center, and it’s here in Ahoskie.”

The facility, Ahoskie Comprehensive Care (ACC), will become a health center home for all of RCCHC patients…… “One home where patients can see their primary care provider, a behavioral health care provider and now a dental care provider, all at a fee based on their income,” Schwartz said.

“This represents a great community partnership,” said Dr. Phyllis Horns, Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences at ECU. “We’re happy to be in this region of the state to bring you not only first-class healthcare, but first-class dental healthcare as well. In a short period of time we’ll have dental students, dental residents and dental faculty here in Ahoskie, working with the healthcare providers here, working with the community here.”

The Dental School, the smaller of the two projects, will be the first to open, perhaps as early as late Spring of 2012.

“We’ll begin to provide care at that point when we’ll have our faculty dentists onboard,” said Dr. Greg Chadwick, Associate Dean of the ECU School Dental Medicine, “Then, next summer, we’ll start our Advanced Education and General Dentistry Residency Program. Those (student) residents will be the first ones here in Ahoskie.”

By 2014, seniors enrolled in the ECU School of Dental Medicine will be arriving in Ahoskie for nine-week rotations.

Dr Chadwick also noted that the School of Dental Medicine will hire local physicians. He said the ultimate goal was to hire 10 individuals by 2014.

Roanoke-Chowan Hospital, through the Roanoke-Chowan Alliance, and University Health Systems donated the land for the new twin facilities.

“We chose this spot for our construction based on that, but this site was also intentional because we already have the ViQuest Center here, we have Northside (Behavioral Health) here; we wanted to make this another medical campus in Ahoskie that, along with the hospital, can reach out to an endless number of people seeking health services and a healthy lifestyle,” Schwartz said. “RCH has become a viable and wonderful partner in all this.”

The new ACC is scheduled to open in September of next year. Not only will it house the RCCHC offices (on the second floor), it will become the new home of Ahoskie Family Physicians, now located in cramped quarters on Academy Street where as many as 60 staff members treat up to 200 patients per day. The new facility will boast of 48 exam rooms, larger laboratories and an in-house pharmacy.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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