School of Dentistry students treat a patient in the Endodontics Clinic, one of several areas that will see upgrades as the capital campaign progresses. (WVU Photo)

WVU School of Dentistry launches capital campaign to upgrade outdated facilities

With help from alumni and friends, the next generation of West Virginia dentists and dental hygienists will be trained in radically modernized facilities that reflect the excellent education and quality patient care provided by the West Virginia University School of Dentistry.

Transforming Oral Health: The Campaign for Facilities is a $15 million fundraising effort to support multiphase facility upgrades for WVU School of Dentistry units. The planned renovations will bring the school out of 1957, when its current space was first created, into the 2020s and beyond.

“In order to stay competitive with other dental schools – but, even more importantly, to provide a true quality education and, equally important, provide true state-of-the-art patient care – we really have no choice but to renovate, modernize and become much more efficient,” Dr. Anthony “Tom” Borgia, Dean, said. “We cannot be treating the patients in 2020 with 1957 technologies.”

Preliminary renovations to administrative offices and a hallway that houses storage lockers for dental students have already been completed. A total makeover of the Urgent Care Clinic and central patient reception area is now underway. The work will install double doors that clearly define the entrance to the School of Dentistry, expand waiting-area seating to 100 patients, provide private consultation rooms, add modern finishes and incorporate an office suite for Diagnostic Sciences.

Upon completion, the facilities will be equipped with modern technologies for dental treatment. For instance, Diagnostic Sciences will add two cone beam computed tomography imaging devices, which provide a more accurate 3D view of a patient’s mouth than traditional X-rays.

School administrators are working with facilities staff to identify swing space that can be used throughout construction to maintain the same level of care for patients. Over the past five years, the School of Dentistry’s Urgent Care Clinic has treated 8,807 patients at 5,626 office visits.

Additional work will be completed as funds become available. As design plans evolve, other areas that will see transformation and upgrades include Dental Hygiene, Endodontics, Oral Surgery, Pediatrics, Periodontics and Prosthodontics. If funding allows, renovations will extend to services currently housed off campus at Suncrest Towne Centre.

In order to complete the facility renovations, School of Dentistry leaders hope to raise $1.5 million through 2020 and another $9 million-plus through 2023. Funds are also needed for equipment, furnishings, signage and more. Borgia said philanthropic support from alumni and other supporters is essential to complete the upgrades.

“One of my biggest advantages is my alumni,” he said. “(T)here was a time the dental school was threatened with closure for financial reasons, and they stepped up to the plate. I would say that they are one of our most valuable assets as our contributors, without which we would not exist. We want to have them continue to contribute and know how much we appreciate it.”

Educator and former West Virginia First Lady Gayle Manchin, an advocate for oral healthcare, will assist School of Dentistry officials in promoting the campaign.

“This is an amazing opportunity to enhance the learning environment for our state’s future oral health practitioners,” Manchin said. “WVU is home to the only dental school in the state. We need to ensure that the very best resources are available to these students, so they are empowered to transform oral health statewide.”

About 85 percent of West Virginia’s practicing dentists attended the WVU School of Dentistry. The new facilities will complement the training provided by world-class faculty with expertise in unique specialties – such as oral pathology, oral medicine, pediatric dentistry, implantology, bone biology and more – to ensure that graduates are prepared to use the latest techniques and technologies in an evolving field.

“We are so excited to usher in a new era for the WVU School of Dentistry with this capital campaign,” Jeffrey Schoenherr, associate vice president for medical and health sciences development at the WVU Foundation. “Dean Borgia has 300 students who benefit from amazing research and teaching, but they’re doing it in wildly outdated facilities. We want to make sure they have access to facilities, innovative technologies and more that are in line with the education they receive and the care they provide.”

Borgia ultimately hopes to elevate the school’s reputation and profile to stand among the best in the nation for education, research and patient care.

“I would put our school up against any other dental school in the U.S. and Canada,” he said. “Our dental students are number one without question. Because West Virginia may not get the best press that we’d like, the School of Dentistry is going to change that and show we can absolutely have the best practitioners and best care available, not only in this part of the country, but the entire country.”

Individuals and businesses interested in supporting the School of Dentistry’s capital campaign should contact Director of Development Karen Coombs at 304-293-1868 or karen.coombs@hsc.wvu.edu. Naming opportunities are available for those who wish to honor a loved one’s legacy, sponsor a student locker or explore other options.

Donations to the capital campaign are made via the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.

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