East Carolina University will build its eighth dental community service learning center in Brunswick County, officials announced at a press conference in Bolivia on May 16.
The School of Dental Medicine at ECU plans to open eight to 10 centers in underserved areas across the state. Four centers are already in operation and three more are under construction. The facilities combine clinical education and patient care.
The Brunswick center will be located on U.S. 17 in Bolivia adjacent to the Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center. Real estate developer Jeff Earp of Brunswick Forest donated the land for the project.
“We’ll do anything we can to help you,” said Phil Norris, chair of the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners. “Welcome, and get here as quickly as you can.”
“It’s a tremendous honor to now have this resource coming to us – this dental center of learning,” remarked David Stanley, director of the Brunswick County Health Department.
Construction is scheduled to begin late this summer with the goal of opening the center to patients and students in the summer of 2015.
“We’re happy to serve in such a strong and visible and meaningful way to help improve health care for citizens of this state,” said Dr. Phyllis Horns, vice chancellor for health sciences at ECU. “We emphasize (service) in all our curricula.”
Led by ECU dental faculty members, fourth-year dental students will receive clinical training at the centers while general dentistry residents also hone their skills at the facilities. The fully functional general dentistry centers will feature treatment rooms, X-ray equipment, educational space and more.
“It’s a chance (for students) to know, to serve and to fall in love with the people of this county and this area,” said Dr. Greg Chadwick, dean of the School of Dental Medicine.
Chadwick emphasized that the center’s impact will extend beyond Brunswick County, improving access to care for the southeast region of North Carolina.
First-year dental student Jeffrey Zackeru is ready to do his part. He grew up in Brunswick County and intends to return here upon graduation to practice dental medicine.
“It was the mission of the school that drew me to ECU,” he said. “Being able to provide care to people I grew up with – their families, their grandparents, their children. They supported me, and now I can give something back.”
ECU admitted its first class of 52 dental students in 2011. The fourth class will begin coursework this fall at Ross Hall in Greenville. Only North Carolina residents are accepted into the dental school.
Centers are already serving patients in Ahoskie, Elizabeth City, Lillington and Sylva and others are under construction in Spruce Pine, Davidson County and Robeson County.
Any member of the community – including Medicaid patients – can receive dental care at the centers.