By Wendy Sarubbi | May 13, 2011 1:47 pm

The University of Central Florida Board of Trustees will consider on May 26 a proposal to establish a College of Dental Medicine at the UCF Health Sciences Campus at Lake Nona.

The college would fill a need to provide students with a local dental program, and it would be expected to create at least 110 local jobs as well as an immediate economic impact of $73 million. The dental college also would benefit Central Florida’s community by attracting research that could improve oral and overall health care.

“The College of Dental Medicine will mean opportunities for our local students to obtain a dental education that they must now leave our area to achieve,” said UCF President John C. Hitt. “The college will mean opportunities to help more people in need of dental care who cannot afford it. And it will mean opportunities to provide Central Florida with new jobs and an economic boost in challenging times.”

A private donor who wishes to remain anonymous is providing a $10 million donation to jump start the project. The university will secure a loan of approximately $40 million to cover the necessary startup costs. The college does not intend to seek state money for the project.

“This is a unique opportunity for us,” said Dr. Deborah German, vice president for medical affairs at UCF and dean of the College of Medicine. “There is a link between oral health and overall health. In fact, recent studies indicate that oral disease is often present in diabetes and cardiovascular disease. We expect to be conducting cutting-edge research in these areas, which will not only benefit our students, but the community’s overall health.”

Central Florida needs dentists who will treat underserved communities. The UCF program would include service-learning projects that would reach out to rural and inner-city communities. Providing service to those who can least afford dental care would be a strong component in the curriculum, Dr. German said.

Many UCF students have long wanted a local dental school.

“I wish I had this opportunity now,” said Tamra Culp, a Sarasota resident who graduated this month with a Molecular Biology and Microbiology degree and is applying to dental colleges this summer. “UCF would have been my first choice. I love UCF, and I prefer to stay close to home. This is where I want to practice.”

The College of Dental Medicine will be housed in a facility to be built at the UCF Health Sciences Campus adjacent to the medical education and Burnett Biomedical Sciences buildings.

UCF’s Board of Trustees will consider the dental college proposal at its May 26 meeting. If approved, the proposal will move on to the Florida Board of Governors for its approval. Then the college will seek national accreditation from the American Dental Association and hire a dean and full faculty for a College of Dental Medicine. UCF expects to open the college in 2014.

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