Grayson Griffis of Appling County is a member of the largest freshman class ever at Georgia Health Sciences University College of Dental Medicine, the state’s only dental school. Grayson’s mother is an alumna of the college.
GHSU now has one of the largest new dental clinical facilities and class sizes in the country. The August opening of a new five-story, 269,133-square-foot building enabled the freshman class to grow from 70 to 80 students this year.
“We’re very pleased to welcome the largest class in the history of this dental school,” said Dean Connie Drisko. “These 80 students represent the best of the best in Georgia and will soon join the over 2,000 graduates of this outstanding institution.”
The facility’s grand opening, set for Sept. 23 at 2:00 p.m. at 1430 John Wesley Gilbert Dr., will feature remarks from university and community leaders, followed by refreshments and tours.
The facility houses 316 clinical operatories within the college’s eight residency programs, two large clinics for junior and senior dental students, simulation labs, an expanded faculty practice, the College of Allied Health Sciences’ dental hygiene program and an operating room and recovery unit for outpatient surgery. Approximately 260 patients are treated in the building each day. An Education Commons, proposed for construction adjacent to the new building, would provide additional classroom space for GHSU dental and medical students.
The expanded clinical space will enable a 61 percent increase in dental students per class (400 total) and a 30 percent increase in faculty by 2016. The number of dental residencies will increase 64 percent by 2013.
The growth will help fill a pressing need for dentists in Georgia, which ranks 48th in the country for dentists per 100,000 residents. U.S. Department of Labor estimates indicate Georgia needs to fill an average of 160 dental positions per year. Nearly one in seven Georgia counties lacks a dentist.
The GHSU College of Dental Medicine typically recruits over a third of its students from dental health shortage areas. GHSU alumni are found in 130 of 159 counties in Georgia.
Almost half of 2010 graduates entered residency programs upon graduation, which should help increase the number of dental specialists and general dentists with advanced training who practice in Georgia.
The college’s new home is the first on the GHSU campus to be LEED-certified, denoting leadership in energy and environmental design.