Officials from East Carolina University, Jackson County, Western Carolina University, Southwestern Community College, and state legislators gathered Dec. 3 on a scenic mountainside in Sylva to break ground for an ECU School of Dental Medicine Community Service Learning Center.
The center will be built in the Jackson County services complex near the senior center, Department of Social Services and rescue squad. Officials expect the building to be completed next summer.
“ECU is thrilled to partner in the health care mission of Jackson County and the region,” said Dr. Phyllis Horns, ECU vice chancellor for health sciences. “We are proud to lead initiatives for improved dental and other health services for residents of this region and across the state.”
The dental center is the third of 10 centers ECU is planning to care for rural, underserved populations across the state. The first center opened in Ahoskie in June, and the second will open in Elizabeth City in January. Each center contains 16 dental chairs and state-of-the-art general dentistry facilities.
ECU School of Dental Medicine faculty members, post-doctoral residents and dental students will provide patient care, giving the residents and students experience practicing in a community setting. The center also will employ local staff members. Medicaid and other forms of insurance will be accepted.
Although blessed with a picturesque place to live, many residents of Jackson and surrounding counties do not have adequate dental resources.
Paula Carden, director of the Jackson County Health Department, has been a supporter of the center since the idea was proposed years ago. “The dental needs of the people of this region are not being met,” said Carden, “Dental health is essential for overall health, and many are being left out. I’ll be happy when we can refer patients to the center.”
Peggy Novotny, director of external affairs
School of Dental Medicine