BRADENTON -- Dental care for needy local residents, and those in under served areas, will be part of the mission of a new Lakewood Ranch dental school, college officials said Thursday.
The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine’s new dental school, which is slated to open with its first class next year, will be emphasizing the importance of serving the community, said Dean Robert F. Hirsch, speaking to the Manatee Tiger Bay Club.
“Typically, the profile of patient demographics are fixed-income, low-income, and medical assistance, so we sort of provide that service of being able to take care of a lot of the patients that have a hard time, maybe, having dental care done,” Hirsch explained.
It will not be like the care of a private dentist because patients must apply, and their needs must fit those of the educational program, but he noted, “It’s very broad, so we won’t be turning many people away.”
The school plans to operate a 115-chair clinic, with discounted rates, said Michael Polin, a spokesman for the college, after the club adjourned.
For the first three years, students will remain at the dental school, but they will spend their entire fourth year at an under served community clinic, in Florida or elsewhere, he said.
“The reason we’re doing that is, the focus of our school is the hope that our graduates will go on to practice in under served areas,” Hirsch said. “That’s a real need right now, it’s more of a distribution problem at times for dentistry.”
The dental school will also be training students to care for “special needs” patients, those with handicaps, for instance, which is sometimes difficult for general dentists to do, he said.
“We will see 250 patients a day, or 60,000 appointments per year, in Lakewood Ranch,” Hirsch said, adding that “outreach” students will see about 600 patients per day, or about 144,000 appointments per year.
Ground-breaking is slated for June 4 on a $52 million building just north of the LECOM campus at 5000 Lakewood Blvd.
The school will open July 25, 2012, with an inaugural class of 100 students; tuition at the private school will cost about $48,000 annually, Hirsch said.
The economic impact to the area will be significant: $6.5 million a year for faculty and staff, among other things, and a direct annual direct economic impact from students worth of about $35 million a year, he said.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.