According to an article on, North Carolina has registered its support for a collaboration between East Carolina University (ECU), Greensboro, NC, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to serve the needs of the state’s citizens, which includes establishing a new dental school at ECU.

Gov Mike Easley (D-Raleigh) signed a budget bill August 1 that gives ECU $25 million to begin dental school construction and $1 million for operating costs. An additional $25 million was allocated to UNC-Chapel Hill for expansion.

Groundbreaking for a 112,500-square-foot facility on ECU’s campus could take place this fall. The ECU School of Dentistry plans to open its doors to a class of 50 students in 2011, said Greg Chadwick, ECU associate vice chancellor for oral health and interim dean.

"We are delighted with the state’s commitment to dental education," Chadwick said. "We’re a state university striving to keep tuition low for our students. With less educational debt, graduates are more likely to pursue practice in rural and remote areas of the state, where there is a dire need for oral health care services."

With a focus on primary care and residencies in pediatric dentistry and advanced education in general dentistry, the ECU School of Dentistry will serve patients who have limited access to care and increase the number of under-represented minority dentists in the state.

North Carolina ranks 47th out of 50 states in the number of dentists per capita. In rural areas, there are just three dentists for every 10,000 people, compared to urban areas where the ratio is nearly five to 10,000. There are four counties in the northeastern part of the state that have no dentists at all, and only 13% of the state’s dentists are minorities (compared with 34% of North Carolinians).

Right now, ECU is planning to have 8 to 10 service learning centers where dental students and residents will receive academic and clinical training.

The state budget bill also included $25 million in capital funds for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry for the planning, site development, and early construction of its Dental Sciences Building, which is estimated to be a $125 million project that will expand the dental school class size by 20%.

With operating funds in place, the ECU dental school will now begin the search for an associate dean for academic affairs, associate dean for finance/operations, and a director of the school’s service learning centers.

The ECU School of Dentistry will be the first new public dental school since the University of Nevada Las Vegas School of Dental Medicine opened in 2002.