Campus & Community

PBSC seeks state funds for new dental health building

Palm Beach State College is seeking nearly $22 million from the Florida Legislature for a new dental health sciences building as part of its legislative priorities for this year.

The dental hygiene clinic is one of two clinics in the health sciences building.

College leaders say the new facility would replace the existing structure, which was built in 1962 and houses the Dental Hygiene Associate in Science degree program, the Dental Assisting postsecondary adult vocational certificate program and the Atlantic Coast Dental Research Clinic.

The 24-chair Dental Hygiene Clinic, as well as the nine-chair clinic used jointly by local dentists for continuing education and Dental Assisting students for training, were renovated in 1999 and 2002, respectively. However, a 2008 study indicated that it would be more cost effective to construct a new building than pursue additional renovations to meet today’s needs for dental health education, services and equipment.

Initial plans call for the construction of a 60,000-square-foot building. The location has not yet been finalized, but the College is weighing two options: the Lake Worth and Loxahatchee Groves campuses.

Rachael Ondrus, executive director for community engagement and special assistant to the president, who is the College lobbyist, worked with President Ava L. Parker, J.D., and her leadership team to develop the College’s priorities for this year. The others are:

  • House Bill 3593, which is a request for $250,000 in matching funds for the College to create a new Application Coding Program. The College would use local funds for the other $250,000 needed to launch the program. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a million more computing jobs than computer science graduates by 2020.
  • Support to create a 4+Program with the School District of Palm Beach County. The partnership would embed career program counselors in the public high schools to assist students with customized education. It also includes the expansion of dual enrollment in vocational and occupational programs. Essentially, students could earn certification in a high-demand fields, such as welding, automotive technology, heavy equipment mechanics and cosmetology, while they are in high school and be prepared for the workforce upon graduation.

Parker said the top priority is funding a new dental health sciences building, which has been on the state’s Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) list since 2008. It has moved up through the years and is now sixth on a list of 61 projects.

“We’re working diligently to get our legislators to understand the value and need for this project. These are the only accredited dental health education programs in Palm Beach County,’’ Parker said.

Dental health program leaders said they are pleased to see funds for a new building on the College’s priority list for this year.  “We really need a new facility to keep up with technology and to provide patients with the best quality of dental care,” said Professor Judy McCauley, chair of the Dental Hygiene Program.

“I know that nothing is final until groundbreaking, but the fact that we’ve gotten this close is good. We are very excited. It’s been a long time coming. We’re very grateful,” said Professor Colleen Bradshaw, chair of the Dental Assisting Program.

The Dental Assisting and Dental Hygiene programs are both highly competitive, limited access programs accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation, and they have 100 percent job placement rates. Each accepts 24 students once a year in the fall. Students in each program provide myriad services to the community, and the facilities must meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations as well as the accreditation requirements.

Dental Hygiene students provide low-cost preventive dental care, including cleanings through the clinic, and they also provide dental screenings and dental health educational workshops through outreach initiatives. For example, they partner with the Palm Beach County School District to provide dental education in all public elementary schools. “The students participate in many community service hours to promote good oral care,’’ McCauley said.

The College has partnered with the Atlantic Coast Dental Research Clinic since 1964.  The clinic serves as a continuing education facility for local dentists as well as a training site for the College’s dental assisting students. Through the clinic, the dentists provide restorative dental needs, including fillings, implants and oral surgery, and the dental assistants get hands-on training.  “Both of our programs are certainly a staple in the community,” McCauley said.

McCauley said dental industry changes, technology and OSHA standards dictate the need for a new building.

“We have been patient and waiting a long time,’’ she said of the proposed new building. “There have been some prayers, too.”


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