FAMU Dentistry Program Nears Approval

Future plans for students pursuing a career in oral and dental health at Florida A&M seems promising.

On Thursday, Aug. 4, at a university Board of Trustees meeting, the Academic Affairs Committee presented a plan to establish a doctor of dental medicine (DMD) degree program. The program will focus on training general and pediatric dentists. The program will also target serving low-income and rural communities, according to BOT committee meeting minutes.

The estimated $1.5 million project has been approved by the Board of Trustees; the next step is approval from the Board of Governors of the state university system. Victor Manuel, a sophomore accounting student from Pompano Beach, said he is concerned that the dentistry school won’t meet the standards of other schools and colleges on campus.

“The College of Dentistry has the potential to measure up to the colleges on campus, if their students take the program as serious as SBI or pharmacy students,” Manuel said. “But, there are a lot of financial issues on campus right now, so it would probably take time for the college of dentistry to become a success.”

Ultimately, the goal of the school is to also partner with neighboring health care facilities for resident and student rotations.

“Access to care is really, really important,” said Jennifer Manuel, a dental hygienist at Bond Community Health Center’s Smile Connection. If you don’t have insurance it can be really expensive.”

Gaining approval for the dentistry school is only the first step in turning the plan into a reality. One concern is facility accommodation of students for rotations. Manuel believes the Bond facility is equipped to handle the matter.

“The students who participate in a residency at the Smile Connection will have a great opportunity to practice,” Manuel said. “We are a digital office; everything is done on computer. That’s where the dental community is headed; getting rid of paper by 2014.”

In addition, Manuel believes patient education is another important matter. “People just don’t know what plaque is…why brushing twice a day is so important. Why it is important to go to the dentist before something starts hurting.”

It’s all about priorities…people don’t see their overall health as important until something goes wrong,” said Manuel.

Neighboring colleges like the University of Florida, which makes up one of the three dentistry programs in Florida, and Florida State support FAMU’s new project.

In a letter of support, UF officials stated, “Our participation with FAMU may lead to increased diversity in the UF program. FAMU may be able to leverage UF’s long established pedagogical programs and highly ranked dental research.”

FSU also explained in a letter that there is, “potential participation of a basic science/ biomedical science facility and other medical facilities.”

“This program will be a huge asset not only to FAMU, but the entire HBCU and minority community. There hasn’t been a dentistry school at a HBCU for over 100 years and it has been proven that oral health disparities for minorities are steadily on the rise,” said SGA President Breyon Love. “The Board of Governors has identified STEM and health majors to be priorities for the state in the future.”