President Backpedals on Dentistry Proposal

Florida A&M officials decided to withdraw the university’s proposal to start a doctorate of dental medicine program.

Instead, President James Ammons signed a collaborative proposal with University of Florida President Bernie Machen to create a joint program between the two institutions.

“Florida A&M University will revisit its efforts for establishment and BOG approval of a College of Dental Medicine once the economy rebounds,” said Donald Palm, assistant vice president for academic affairs. “In the meantime, Florida A&M University will continue to build capacity through developing collaborative partnerships and raising private funds.”

Among the many benefits outlined in the new proposal, a pipeline program, the Health Sciences Academic Enrichment Program “will recruit and prepare 50 disadvantaged students annually to matriculate into the University of Florida’s College of Dentistry and other State University System (SUS) of Florida dental and medical schools.”

“A portion of the students will matriculate into the University of Florida’s College of Dentistry (UF-COD) and other State University System (SUS) of Florida dental and medical schools,” Palm said.

Also, a post-baccalaureate program would be established for those disadvantaged students who were denied admission to the UF-COD.

The proposal also calls for the expansion of the UF-COD by 12 students per year.

The UF-COD is the only public program in the state. As of fall 2009, 36 percent of the students enrolled in UF-COD were non-white.

Nearly 6 percent were black, according to the UF Office of Institutional Research. Nova Southeastern University has the only other dentistry program in Florida. It is, however, a not-for-profit institution. According to a webpage dedicated to the proposed program on FAMU’s website, the goal of the program would have been to address to the oral health care needs of Florida’s undeserved, low-income and rural communities.

In March 2010, former Sen. Al Lawson, a FAMU alumnus, submitted a proposal to the legislature for $1.5 million to start up the program.

FAMU’s dental program would have been the third of its kind among HBCUs. Howard University and the Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., both private institutions, have dental medicine programs.

According to the National Dental Association, black dentists represented 2.2 percent of the total number of dental medicine practitioners in the U.S. in 2009.

In a letter from UF Provost Joseph Glover to FAMU Provost Cynthia Hughes-Harris dated Aug. 8, Glover spoke favorably of the proposed FAMU dental program, but stated he was concerned that another dentistry program could dilute funding for the UF-COD.

On July 27, John Fogarty, dean of the Florida State’s College of Medicine, wrote a letter in support of FAMU’s proposal.

At a Sept. 14 Strategic Planning Committee Meeting of the Florida Board of Governors, Howard Bailit, a consultant for the FAMU Dental School, announced that Tallahassee Memorial Hospital would be willing to house the program.