LECOM dental school opens in July in Lakewood Ranch

pafshar@bradenton.comDecember 19, 2011 

LAKEWOOD -- Lecom’s School of Dental Medicine is starting to take shape.

The walls are literally up on the 100,000-square-foot, $52 million building, the floor plan is set, and come July, it will join Nova Southeastern University and the University of Florida as one of three dental schools in Florida.

Robert Hirsch, dean of the school, said the first round of acceptance letters has been sent out to some of the 100 first-year students. Other applications are being processed.

Within four years, Lecom’s dental school is expected to have about 400 students.

The community will gain the most from the school, according to Michael Polin, communications and marketing director for the school.

“It’s great for the local economy,” he said. “These students are going to need a place to live, shop and go out.”

The direct impact should be around $14 million in the Bradenton area, according to a media release.

In addition to the economic gain, the new school will help provide dental treatment for low-income and uninsured families.

Giving back to the community is a key trait Hirsch looks for in dental school candidates. He stresses the need to give to underprivileged areas.

“Our fourth-year students will be involved in outreach in underserved areas,” Hirsch said.

The school will include a 115-seat patient clinic, which will run like a regular dental office.

“It’s a discounted fee,” Hirsch said, adding the hands-on work is part of training.

The teachers will also provide some level of care.

“It gives the facility the opportunity to practice dentistry,” Hirsch said.

The only downside to going to LECOM is the work might take a bit longer because the work is always checked by a professor, Hirsch said.

For example, an normal hour-long procedure could take up to three at their facility.

But before the community can take advantage of the work the students will be doing, they need to be taught.

The school expects the public to get treatment starting in 2013.

The school has a learning resource center and two lecture halls, along with the latest technology in each classroom.

For the new dean, the school opening is nothing short of exciting.

“It’s not that often you get a chance to start something like this,” Hirsch said.

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