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Chicago pediatric clinic that serves 100 every day gets $2 million boost

July 30, 2018

By Michelle Manchir

Dr. Marcio da Fonseca
Dr. da Fonseca
 Dr. Clark Stanford
Dr. Stanford
Many Illinois families drive hours from their homes to access the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry's pediatric clinic, located about three miles west of Michigan Avenue in the city's downtown, said Dr. Marcio da Fonseca, head of the university's department of pediatric dentistry and director of oral health for special needs children.

The UIC pediatric dental clinics see about 100 patients every day for comprehensive and urgent care, Dr. da Fonseca said, and soon it may be able to serve even more. In July, the Illinois Children's Healthcare Foundation announced a $2 million grant for the clinic to build a pediatric dentistry ambulatory surgery center, which is expected to include four procedure rooms and two general anesthesia suites.

Currently, the pediatric clinic relies on the university's hospital surgery center to treat many of its patients needing extensive dental work under general anesthesia.

Most children who visit the clinics are at high risk for dental disease, said Dr. da Fonseca. About a third of the population includes patients with special needs, including chronic health conditions and developmental delays, he said.

But the University Hospital operating rooms are often booked so the pediatric clinics regularly have a backlog of more than 1,000 patients waiting for general anesthesia services, said Dr. da Fonseca.

The new pediatric dentistry surgery center, located in the college's oral and maxillofacial surgery department, will allow the UIC College of Dentistry to serve an additional 1,000 pediatric patients each year who need care under general anesthesia and an additional 1,500 pediatric patients who need dental care under sedation, according to a news release from the Illinois Children's Healthcare Foundation.

The university's junior dental students and 18 residents in its recently expanded specialty residency program staff the pediatric dental clinics, which are easily accessible via public transportation, said Dr. Clark Stanford, dean of the UIC College of Dentistry. Faculty members oversee the clinic and also see patients, including Dr. Stanford himself, who mostly sees patients with special needs and genetic anomalies.

Furthermore, the college of dentistry recently received a grant from the Fry Foundation to hire a social worker who, through a partnership with the university's social work program, will assist patients and families decrease barriers to access to dental care and understand their needs in a holistic way, said Dr. Stanford.

To serve more patients, Dr. da Fonseca said the university has been looking for collaborations with community partners, such as the Illinois Children's Healthcare Foundation. Due to Illinois' notorious state budget woes, funding from the state has dramatically decreased since the 1980s, said Dr. Stanford, so private donations are crucial to maintain — and certainly to increase —  the volume of care at the university's clinics, he said.

"We also will embark on a strong prevention program to help decrease the burden of dental disease for our patients," said Dr. da Fonseca.

The pediatric dentistry surgery center that will be built thanks in part to this grant "will have a profound impact on the delivery of oral healthcare to children in Chicago and throughout the State of Illinois for generations to come," Dr. Stanford said.

Construction for the new facility is expected to begin in November.

Illinois Children's Healthcare Foundation is a statewide private foundation that began investing in children's oral health programs in 2004, according to a news release.
 
For more information about the foundation or the project, visit ilchf.org.