ECU breaks ground on dental center in Sylva
By Peggy Novotny
ECU School of Dental Medicine
East met west Monday, Dec. 3, to ensure that more residents of Jackson County and surrounding counties have access to dental care.
State legislators and officials from East Carolina University, Jackson County, Western Carolina University and Southwestern Community College gathered on a scenic mountainside to break ground for an ECU School of Dental Medicine Community Service Learning Center.
Construction on the Sylva dental center is imminent. The $3 million, 7,700-square-foot center will be built in the Jackson County services complex and just up the hill from the county’s senior center, Department of Social Services and rescue squad. Officials expect the building to be completed this 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 in Sylva, a town of approximately 2,600 in the Plott Balsam Mountains, is the third to be built of the 10 centers ECU is planning for 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 will also employ local staff members. Medicaid and other forms of insurance will be accepted by the center.
“We’ve anticipated the center in Sylva for a few years,” said Dr. Greg Chadwick, dean of the ECU School of Dental Medicine. “Now we are anxious to see the building completed on this beautiful parcel of land. Collaboration with legislators, public health providers, elected officials and many dentists in the region has been terrific.”
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 in Sylva since the idea was proposed to her 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.”
The School of Dental Medicine intends to place fourth-year dental students in rotations in community service learning centers throughout the state. The school admitted its first 52 students in August 2011. A second class of 52 students entered this August. All students are North Carolina residents, representing 50 counties.
“We are proud to be a part of this initiative by East Carolina,” said Chuck Wooten, Jackson County manager. “Our hope is that the dental center will help more students in our region consider dental professions and that some of ECU’s dental students who work here will fall in love with the mountains and want to stay.”
BJAC of Raleigh is the architect of the community service learning center in Sylva. The general contractor is The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company of Charlotte.