FAU announces plans for dental school – UNIVERSITY PRESS

With a looming dental shortage in Florida, the FAU announced plans for a dental school. If plans go ahead, it will be Florida’s second public dental school.

The FAU recently revealed its intention to alleviate the dental shortage by building a dental school. There is only one public dental school in the state, which is the University of Florida (UF). There are two private dental schools in Florida, including Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) and Nova Southeastern University (NSU).

Currently, 63 of Florida’s 67 counties face dental shortages, with about a quarter of the state’s population struggling with a lack of dental care. With Florida’s population rapidly increasing by the day, the FAU College of Medicine believes this problem will worsen over the next decade.

With insufficient dental care, many have turned to emergency rooms to treat serious dental problems. This is becoming a costly problem for Floridians.

“It creates a bottleneck in the system, it creates suboptimal care, especially if nobody knows anything about your teeth and your dentistry,” said Julie Pilitis, dean of Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine.

According to Pilitis, Florida alone billed about $620 million in 2021 in medical bills for dental-related ER and hospital visits. She also estimated that dental school could save South Floridians $300 million.

If dental school plans go ahead, FAU dental school will be the second public dental school to be established in Florida and the fourth after UF, NSU, and LECOM. It would be the first public dental school in over 50 years since UF Dental School opened in 1972.

Compared to other highly populated states, California has three public dental schools, Texas has four, and New York has two. As a result, 58% of dental students in Florida will attend out-of-state dental school, according to a investigation the American Dental Association conducted in 2020-2021.

“We need more options for people to train here. Why do we need this and why do we care? Once we let someone go, they might not come back,” Pilitis said of the importance of students agreeing to go to school in the state.

The university announced the plans for the dental school at the FAU Faculty Senate meeting on September 12 and the Board of Trustees meeting on September 16.

According to the Board of Directors, FAU has 50 community partners supporting the expansion of FAU Health, including major partners such as Broward Health, Tenet Health, Cleveland Clinic Florida and Memorial Healthcare System.

The school will be named after dentist, philanthropist and former board member Dr. Jeffery Feingold. Feingold served on the board from 2010 to 2021 and was the late husband of current BOT member Barbara Feingold. His wife succeeded him as a member of the BOT shortly before his death that year.

“It’s always been her dream to see a dental school here,” Feingold said of her late husband’s legacy at the September 16 board meeting.

The total cost of the building is estimated at $64.25 million. The university already has a committed philanthropic pledge of $30 million and has a legislative budget request of $34.2 million. For the operation of the dental school, the non-recurring budget is requested at $85.5 million and $37.9 million for recurring costs, bringing the initial operating budget to $124 million.

The university’s plans for the dental school are currently not finalized and will be proposed to the state legislature in November.

Melanie Gomez is a staff writer for University Press. For more information regarding this story or other stories, email him at [email protected]

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