Another political fight brewing?
East Carolina University
was successful a year ago in convincing the state legislature to fund the
new cardiovascular center recently dubbed The East Carolina Heart Institute.
After many years of
bottling up funding requests, the General Assembly finally appropriated the
$60 million necessary to get the project started. Pitt County Memorial
Hospital’s share of the project makes the total price tag over $200 million.
The appropriation for ECU
stimulated requests from around the state and the final price tag of all
requests was in excess of $500 million for taxpayers.
Now, the fight begins for
the next ECU request. For years the idea of a dental school in Greenville
has been whispered. As of Friday it is a whisper no more.
The ECU Board of Trustees
is now officially on record after a unanimous resolution to request the
funding for a new ECU School of Dentistry.
The university has hired
Dr. Greg Chadwick, former president of the American Dental Association. A
Charlotte dentist, Chadwick has been appointed by Chancellor Steve Ballard
as the new associate vice chancellor for oral health.
Now the request will go
to the UNC Board of Governors for approval. Only 3 of the 32 members of that
board have ECU ties.
UNC-Chapel Hill has the
only other state-funded school of dentistry in North Carolina. On the
surface, administration officials at Chapel Hill have pledged their support.
However, there are rumblings that certain officials in that school are
concerned about how a new ECU school will affect their funding.
Expect another political
battle for ECU. New UNC System President Erskine Bowles is on record that he
wants East Carolina to play a huge role in the health and economic well
being of the region east of I-95.
This will be a good
litmus test for Bowles to make good on that promise.
Once the statistics are
revealed, the ECU School of Dentistry seems like a no-brainer.
The North Carolina Dental
Society recently released a shocking document that contends there are
600,000 underserved children in the state, most in rural areas.
North Carolina ranks 47th
in the nation in the ratio of dentists to population. The need for dentistry
for some eastern N.C. children has reached crisis proportions.
Twenty-three percent of
kindergarten children have untreated tooth decay; thirty-three per cent of
kids ages 2-9 have untreated decay.
UNC-Chapel Hill cannot
educate enough dentists to handle this increasing problem in a state that is
projected to be the 7th largest in the nation by the year 2030.
Starting a School of
Dentistry at ECU makes sense right now. Hopefully, the smoke from the
looming new battle over state funds will not obscure a perfectly reasonable
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This page updated
02/23/07 10:18 AM.
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