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Location of future VCU School of Dentistry building identified

Authorization for the site is pending before the Virginia General Assembly. As the only dental school in the state, VCU School of Dentistry plays a critical role in providing care for low-income and underinsured patients.

Dentistry students are in a lab, practicing how to use different tools. The students are wearing blue scrubs and have on facemasks. A proposed new VCU School of Dentistry building will provide state-of-the-art equipment and technology to serve expanding dental and dental hygiene classes as well as maximize care for patients from across the state. (VCU School of Dentistry)

By Brian McNeill  

Virginia state lawmakers negotiating the commonwealth’s two-year budget are actively considering the inclusion of a planning authorization for Virginia Commonwealth University to construct a modern dentistry center on the university’s academic medical center campus in Richmond, which includes VCU Medical Center.

The governor’s proposed budget, released in December, included $5.2 million in non-general fund authorization for VCU to begin planning for the facility.

The building will be home to VCU School of Dentistry classrooms, patient clinics and laboratories. The university has identified university-owned property co-located at the site of VCU’s Larrick Student Center as the location for the new dentistry center, should planning be authorized by the Virginia General Assembly.

The proposed new building will provide state-of-the-art equipment and technology to expand dental and dental hygiene classes and maximize care for patients, including medically underserved populations. It brings together general and specialty clinics, multiple cutting-edge academic laboratories, and associated contemporary support spaces — aligning with modern practices in dental and dental hygiene education, enhancing patient care, improving faculty and student recruitment and allowing for increased enrollment.

“As the only dental school in Virginia and the only facility to offer complete multidisciplinary dental care, the VCU School of Dentistry plays a critical role in educating the next generation of dental professionals and supports the oral health of communities across the commonwealth,” said Lyndon F. Cooper, D.D.S., Ph.D., dean of the VCU School of Dentistry. “The advanced technological infrastructure a new facility provides will transform the care we provide and enhance the training that dentists need to provide care for Virginia’s diverse population.”

VCU School of Dentistry graduates approximately 105 dental and 20 dental hygiene students each year and is the largest provider of dental care in Virginia for patients with Medicaid insurance. The condition of the VCU School of Dentistry’s current facilities do not meet educational or patient care needs and have significant accessibility issues and deferred maintenance estimated more than $75 million.

According to Cooper, the school cannot grow to accommodate the demand for oral health care from the community, which can lead to expensive and preventable emergency room visits and loss of student educational opportunities.

The Larrick Student Center site rose to the top of the options evaluated due to its proximity to existing and future university and VCU Health System facilities on the academic medical center campus. Also, importantly for community access, this location is on the GRTC Transit System bus route and provides ample access to parking.