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ECU opens new community service learning centers

January 20, 2015

By Kimber Solana

Dr. Slotke gives a tour
Photos by Jay Clark, ECU News Services
Tour guide: Dr. Craig Slotke, director of general dentistry for the Robeson County Community Service Learning Center, gives a tour of ECU’s newest service learning center Dec. 2 to ECU dental students and their parents before a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Lumberton, N.C.
— The East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine is opening this month and in February its fifth, sixth and seventh community service learning centers — facilities that provide dental care to patients in underserved areas of North Carolina while providing clinical training to dental students.

The $3 million, 7,700-square-foot center in Robeson County will begin providing care to Medicaid enrollees and other community residents who lack regular dental care later this month. Two other centers, in Davidson County and Spruce Pine, North Carolina, will open in February.

“This is something that I know the area needs,” said Kasey Oxendine, an ECU third-year dental student who grew up in Lumberton, the county seat of Robeson County. “It’s good to see it here but it’s even more exciting to be part of it — that my university is investing in my community.”

Ms. Oxendine will soon be among the students receiving clinical training at these centers.

Led by ECU dental faculty members, dental students spend eight-week clinical rotations at three centers during their fourth-year of dental school. In addition, general dentistry residents can also hone their skills at the facilities.

The fully functional centers feature, among others, 16 operatories, treatment rooms, X-ray equipment and an education space. Each center will see about 50 patients per day.

“ECU is well-known for its service mission,” said Dr. Phyllis Horns, vice chancellor for health sciences at ECU. “And certainly our community service learning centers allow us to reach out to the citizens of this state in meaningful ways and improve their quality of life.”

Christa Jones
Newest center: East Carolina University dental student Christa Jones shows attendees the new community service learning center set to open this month in Robeson County, N.C.
Meanwhile, the students, who are all from North Carolina, can learn about practice management, working with a dental team, business principles, how to run a clinic and interact with potentially future neighbors.

“North Carolina, among the 50 states, ranks 47th in the number of dentists per 10,000 people,” said Dr. Michael Scholtz, ECU assistant dean for extramural clinical practices. The ECU program would hopefully help increase the number of dentists in the state.

“There’s a lot of excitement here,” said Dr. Greg Chadwick, dean of the ECU School of Dental Medicine. “The students are receiving training in the clinics, but they will also be living in these rural communities. They’ll be at the grocery store, eating at the restaurants and interacting with potential future neighbors.”
By spending their fourth year of dental school rotating through the statewide service learning centers, each student gets a chance to explore a place that might become their future home.

The first ECU dental service learning center opened in Ahoskie, North Carolina, in August 2012. Other centers are in Elizabeth City, Lillington and Sylva. Eight to 10 community service learning centers are planned for underserviced areas in North Carolina.