With an incoming dental shortage in Florida, FAU announced plans for a dental school. If plans move forward, it will be the second public dental school in Florida.
FAU recently revealed plans to reduce the dental shortage by building a dental school. There is only one public dental school in the state, which is the University of Florida (UF). There are two private dental schools in Florida, including Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) and Nova Southeastern University (NSU).
Currently, 63 out of 67 counties in Florida are facing shortages in dental care with an estimated one-fourth of the state’s population dealing with a lack of dental care. With Florida’s population rapidly rising by the day, FAU’s College of Medicine estimates this issue to worsen within the next decade.
With insufficient dental care, many have turned to going to the emergency room to treat severe dental issues. It is becoming an expensive issue for Floridians.
“It is creating a bottleneck in the system, it is creating sub-optimal care, especially if nobody knows anything about your teeth and dentistry,” said Julie Pilitis, the dean of Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine.
According to Pilitis, Florida alone had billed an estimated $620 million in 2021 on medical bills for dental-related ER and hospital visits. She also estimated the dental school could save South Floridians those costs by $300 million.
If plans for the dental school proceed forward, FAU’s dental school will be the second public dental school to be established in Florida and the fourth after UF, NSU, and LECOM. It would be the first public dental school in over 50 years since UF’s dental school opened in 1972.
In comparison to other states with large populations, California has three public dental schools, Texas has four, and New York has two. As a result, 58% of dental students from Florida will attend dental school out of state, according to a survey the American Dental Association conducted in 2020-2021.
“We need more options for people to train here. Why do we need that and why do we care? Once we let someone leave, they may not come back,” said Pilitis regarding the importance of students willing to go to school in-state.
The university announced the dental school’s plans at the FAU Faculty Senate meeting on Sept. 12 and the Board of Trustees meeting on Sept. 16.
According to the Board of Trustees, FAU has 50 community partners in support of the FAU Health expansion including major partners such as Broward Health, Tenet Health, Cleveland Clinic Florida and Memorial Healthcare System.
The school will be named after dentist, philanthropist and former Board of Trustees member Dr. Jeffery Feingold. Feingold served on the Board of Trustees from 2010 to 2021 and was the late husband of current BOT member Barbara Feingold. His wife succeeded him as a BOT member shortly before his death that year.
“It was always his dream to see a dental school here,” said Feingold of her late husband’s legacy at the Board of Trustees meeting on Sept. 16.
The total cost of the building is estimated to be at $64.25 million. The university already has a committed philanthropic pledge of $30 million and has a legislative budget request of $34.2 million. For the dental school operations, the non-recurring budget is requested at $85.5 million and $37.9 million for recurring costs, bringing the initial operation budget to $124 million.
The university plans for the dental school are currently not finalized and will be proposed to the state legislature in November.
Melanie Gomez is a staff writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories email her at [email protected]