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Officials praise new dental building at Georgia Health Sciences University

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Jim Hawkins admires the new College of Dental Medicine after a dedication ceremony. It is the largest capital project the University System of Georgia Board of Regents has built.  Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jim Hawkins admires the new College of Dental Medicine after a dedication ceremony. It is the largest capital project the University System of Georgia Board of Regents has built.

As the executive director of the group that represents dental schools in the U.S. and Canada, Dr. Richard Valachovic has seen a lot of facilities. But he did not mince words about the new $112 million home for the College of Dental Medicine at Georgia Health Sciences University.

“This is clearly the finest building of any dental school that I have seen,” the head of the American Dental Education Association said Friday at the grand opening for the building, which is already in use. It is the largest capital project the University System of Georgia Board of Regents has built, GHSU President Ricardo Azziz said.

“It is much more than a building,” he said, a theme repeated on fans that were handed out at the event. “It is an investment in the health of the state of Georgia.”

Georgia ranks 48th in the number of dentists per 100,000 residents and one in seven Georgia counties lacks a dentist, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said. The new building allowed this year’s incoming class to increase from 70 to 80 and class size will reach 100, Azziz said.

“Growing the size of GHSU’s dental class not only means better oral health for Georgia, it means better economic health for our state as well,” Deal said.

The building will do more than teach and train students – it will help to attract students, faculty and patients, Valachovic said.

“People are going to want to come here,” he said.

It is part of what Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver called a “renaissance” and an “era of building” that has seen $361 million in investment in downtown Augusta and the surrounding areas. The city helped make the project happen by buying the former Gilbert Manor housing area and donating it to the university, and university officials and Copenhaver repeatedly acknowledged the “sacrifice” those residents made in moving so the university could expand.

“This is what can happen when people work together toward something that is bigger than themselves, joining together selflessly, tirelessly and patiently, persistently pursuing a goal,” Copenhaver said.

The university has saved bricks from the former housing units and will be building a monument with them to the former residents, but it has been delayed to allow for them to have input, Dean Connie Drisko said.

“It’s coming,” she said. The gleaming, soaring building itself is “fitting architecture, a representation of the gifted faculty, the exceptional students and the superb staff,” Drisko said.

But Dr. George Schuster can remember when the dental school began, in 1969, they taught 30 students out of two temporary trailers. When they got the first building in 1971, it was a “state of the art facility,” he said. More than that the school had an approach to teaching “to work with the students to make them as outstanding as possible, basically a professional relationship,” said Schuster, a professor emeritus of oral biology. “That has not changed. That is what made this school unique then and still makes it unique now.”

Second-year dental student Miles Bell said the new building is something he can tease his brother about. Dr. Jack Bell graduated from the school last year, before the new building opened. Miles Bell still goes back to the old building for some classes and training and it has given him a unique perspective on the dental school, he said.

“It nice to be part of the history and the future of it,” Bell said.

About the new building

Here is some more information about new five-story building for the College of Dental Medicine at Georgia Health Sciences University:

  • 269,133 squaret feet inside;
  • 56,030 square feet of exterior brick, 146,595 square feet of exterior glass and 22,128 square feet of interior glass
  • 316 dental chairs
  • 294 miles of electrical wire
  • 590,000 square feet of insulation
  • Currently trains 281 students, which will rise to 400 by 2016
  • Employs 125 faculty, which will rise by 30 percent by 2016
  • Employs 245 staff
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corgimom 09/23/11 - 01:16 pm
"which should increase the

"which should increase the supply of dentists in Georgia."

Of course, if someone attends GHSU, they will stay in Georgia. Why would anyone think differently?

Like my endodontist- who is a MCG grad and practices in NC.

socks99 09/23/11 - 03:12 pm
The real measure of a

The real measure of a productivity increase vis a vis this new facility would be seen in lower costs for dental education and dental care, and a corresponding increase in its availability.* Unfortunately, the Regent's have overseen a dramatic increase in debt-driven new facilities that will actually raise educational costs, and force future educators and providers to hew to much higher reimbursement rates in order to pay-off debts.1

Just like the would-be home buyers of the recently departed housing bubble, the Regent's days of hubris, and spendthrift and reckless borrowing and spending, will have terrible consequences both for the University system, and for the quality, availability and costs of health care in Georgia.

Citizens ought to force a break-up of the top-down Regent's system and allow regional competition between universities; furthermore, schools such as MCG ought to be governed by local councils and NOT by the out-of-touch, aloof bureaucrats in Atlanta.

*Simply increasing the number of health care providers will not improve access as long as those providers limit care in order to drive-up reimbursement costs.

1The real 'fruits' of these 'investments' might accrue, as in the financial crisis, to big financial concerns. We just have to pay for it, and deal with much more expensive educational and health care costs!

bjphysics 09/23/11 - 04:06 pm
They have dental care in

They have dental care in Georgia? Who'd hav thunk it?

kiwiinamerica 09/23/11 - 04:40 pm
This is how administrators

This is how administrators and politicians view "progress". In terms of bricks and mortar.......buildings...........structures.

"Well Joe, what progress have we made this year?"

"Er.......well......we built that thing over there!"

"Ah yes, very good!!"

Those of us who actually work in science measure progress a little differently. We look at the quality of the science, the conceptual development of ideas and an advancement in the understanding of biomedical problems and disease.

Try telling that to a bean counter who sees medicine in terms of square footage and photo opportunities.

Two different worlds.

twentieth century man
twentieth century man 09/24/11 - 10:04 am
I suspect the economic

I suspect the economic (impact) multiplier is less for each dental student than it is for each medical student. Also, over the past decade, the clinical entity ("Health Inc") has not reinvested enough money to truly expand the medical footprint/outreach of "MCG/GHSU". As a result of these conditions, the dedication of a large, shared dental facility on a large tract of land (= dental campus) is not really good financial news for Augusta/CSRA. When one considers the impending layoffs and the "medical school expansion" to Athens and other locations, and name/brand changes, one conclusion is that state funding/support for "MCG"/GHSU-"Augusta" is actually being diluted. Hence, celebration of this building dedication may miss its true significance. We are being misled by state and institutional leadership.

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