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LECOM unveils dental school plans

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  • | 5:00 a.m. January 21, 2011
Dr. Robert Hirsch was appointed as dean of the new dental school in November.
Dr. Robert Hirsch was appointed as dean of the new dental school in November.
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LAKEWOOD RANCH — Two months after Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine announced plans to open a dental school at its Erie, Pa., campus, the school has unveiled plans for another dental school — this time in the East County.

Officials from LECOM on Jan. 21 announced plans to invest $52 million for a new dental school in Lakewood Ranch. The new facility, which will be located immediately north of LECOM’s Bradenton campus off Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, will be the third dental school in the state of Florida.

“I’m really impressed,” said dentist Dr. Michael Kanter, owner of Lakewood Ranch Dental, of the school’s plans. “It’s exciting to have this right in our backyard to help support this profession.”

Dr. Robert Hirsch, who joined LECOM in September 2009 as a consultant to write curriculum and other plans for the Erie dental school project, was appointed as dean of the LECOM Bradenton School of Dental Medicine in November.

Hirsch said, once complete, the new dental school will offer a unique curriculum, including an off-site senior-level outreach education course, for which students will travel to practice dentistry in underserved areas.

“That is sort of the thrust of this school,” Hirsch said. “We hope the majority of our graduates will serve underserved areas.”

Students at the School of Dental Medicine will see patients locally, offering a wide array of dental services. Hirsch said patient care, which will be handled through an application process to ensure patients’ treatment regiments meet the school’s needs, will target individuals who otherwise would not be able to afford services. Because students will be working on patients in a learning environment under the oversight of professors, treatments can take up to three times as long as in a typical dental office, he said.

“Oral health impacts general health, and dental health professionals (play) a key role in (overall health care),” Hirsch said. “Our hope is to work with the community to provide (dental care for those who wouldn’t be able to afford it).”

Dr. Richard Valachovic, executive director of the American Dental Education Association, said the new college would help satisfy a national shortage of dentists.

“We need to ensure there are dentists who graduate from quality dental (schools) like LECOM,” he said.
Hirsch said he hopes to break ground on the new school sometime in March, but first will be deciding on architectural and construction firms to use for the project.

LECOM officials anticipate getting an initial accreditation from the Commission on Dental Accreditation in February — an approval that would pave the way for college to recruit its first class of 100 students.

Officials hope to have the first class of dental students begin classes at the school in August 2012. Within four years of its inaugural class, the School of Medicine will enroll 400 students.

The college is expected to employ nearly 200 individuals, including dental faculty, administrators, dental hygienists and administrative and other support staff.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].


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