PBSC seeks local support for new dental health building
The Florida Legislature has allocated $5 million for a new facility for the longstanding, highly regarded dental health education programs at Palm Beach State College, and now College leaders are drumming up additional support for the project.
The Dental & Medical Services Technology Building would replace the current 55-year-old structure at the Lake Worth campus, allowing PBSC to incorporate current and future technology required in the core components of the Dental Hygiene Associate in Science degree and the Dental Assisting postsecondary adult vocational certificate programs. The programs, both established in 1964, are the only such programs in Palm Beach County accredited by the American Dental Association, Commission on Dental Health, and they provide a vital talent pool for the workforce.
The $5 million is far from the nearly $22 million that PBSC sought from the Legislature and needs for a new building, but College leaders say they will pursue additional funds from the state next year and at the same time seek support from the community. With this initial $5 million, the planning phase can begin.
PBSC will hold a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. June 29 in the Center for Bachelor’s Programs (Room 103) on the Lake Worth campus for members of the dental community, the Program Advisory Council and alumni to provide a status update on the project and discuss ways for the community to get involved. The event is free and open to anyone interested, but attendees must RSVP.
“This project is a priority because it prepares our dental program students and serves as a critical resource for people in our community who need access to low-cost dental care,’’ said PBSC President Ava L. Parker, J.D. “We need this project fully funded. We also need the community’s support to continue our efforts to secure funding.”
The facility is used as not only a training site for students, but also to provide continuing education for about 200 local dentists who are members of the Atlantic Coast Dental Research Clinic, which has been a partner of the College since 1964. Participating dentists of the nonprofit clinic provide low-cost dental treatment, including fillings, implants and oral surgery, to patients in the community, which also provides the required clinical training for the dental assisting students.
The Dental Hygiene Clinic, as well as the clinic used jointly by the Atlantic Coast Dental Research Clinic and the dental assisting students, 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 in order to plan and meet the growing demand for educating dental health professionals and the technology required to provide treatment on patients.
“The building is not conducive or compatible to future technology,’’ said Nancy Zinser, associate dean of health sciences. “We have to plan ahead and be able to keep up to provide the quality education that we’ve had for over 50 years. We’re raising awareness of the need for additional funding and support within the community to build fundraising opportunities.”
Dr. John Tumminia, a Boynton Beach dentist and past president of the Atlantic Coast Dental Research Clinic, agrees that a new facility is needed and supports the College’s efforts. He said it would allow the clinic to continue its primary purpose to provide topnotch training for dental assisting students as well as serve those who lack dental insurance, but have some means to pay for dental care. He said the clinic’s fees are two-thirds less than those in the private sector.
“It’s absolutely a win-win for the College, the Research Clinic, the community and everyone,’’ he said.
The Dental Assisting and Dental Hygiene programs are both highly competitive, limited access programs, and they have 100 percent job placement rates. Each accepts 24 students once a year in the fall. Students in each program provide a myriad of 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 provide dental screenings and dental health educational workshops through outreach initiatives. For example, they collaborate with the Palm Beach County School District to provide dental education in all public elementary schools.
For more information about the PBSC Dental Health programs, visit www.palmbeachstate.edu/programs/dentalhealth. For more information about the reception, call the PBSC Foundation at 561-868-3450.