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Initiative for Dental Branch: Open to Health
Fund raising initiative focuses on redefinition of oral health education, research and service
Using everything from dental floss and a saliva sample, to a computer chip and a keyboard cell phone, Catherine M. Flaitz, D.D.S., dean of The University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston, illustrated just how much oral health has evolved, during the Feb. 28 meeting of the UT Health Science Center at Houston Development Board.
Flaitz presented “Open to Health: Redefining Dentistry,” which summarized the school’s $143 million initiative to construct a new building and increase the financial resources available for research, teaching and community service.
The initiative has been named “Open to Health,” which stems from one of its core missions: to open the definition and perception of dentistry. This includes being Open to Discovery, Open to Learning, Open to Innovation, Open to Serving, Open to Diversity, Open to Collaboration, Open to Excelling and Open to Growing.
Stephen Schwartz, D.D.S., chair of the initiative, was present during the meeting to champion the effort. Jerry Long, D.D.S., UTDB alumnus and a leader in Texas dentistry, has been selected as the initiative vice chair.
The Dental Branch is more than halfway toward its goal with $78 million in hand, thanks to $60 million in state Tuition Revenue Bonds and $18 million in UT System Permanent University Funds.
Both the UT Health Science Center at Houston and the UT System have listed funding of debt service for the new building’s tuition revenue bonds as one of the top priorities in the legislative appropriations request for the 80th session of the Texas Legislature.
“Every day the ties that bind oral health and systemic health become tighter,” Flaitz said. “Salivary diagnostic researchers are getting closer each day to being able to detect some of society’s most serious diseases, including cancer and diabetes, from the dental chair.
“Our oral health affects our total health and quality of life. It always has. But now through molecular medicine, it is possible to confirm this belief by collaborating with some of the finest minds and utilizing cutting edge technology – resources that already exist in the Texas Medical Center.
“It is all about being open to exploring new ways of defining health and to incorporate these advances into progressive and meaningful curricula for our students.
“This is what Open to Health means – redefining and expanding the role of dentistry, while keeping an open mind to the collaborative possibilities that will allow us to evaluate health from a different angle. Being open in this way will help us make the greatest impact on the lives of our patients,” she said.
John Valenza, D.D.S., executive associate dean, who is managing the building project, is meeting with programmers and developers to discuss layout, design, equipment and other construction details.
John T. Greer, director of development at the Dental Branch, is working closely with Schwartz, Flaitz and Long to build the support that will be needed for the project to succeed.
The new school will be located in The University of Texas Research Park, a master-planned 100-acre development at the south end of the Texas Medical Center. The facility will replace the six-floor, 50- year-old facility at M. D. Anderson Blvd. and Moursund Ave.
The current Dental Branch building, owned by the UT Health Science Center at Houston, will be dedicated to clinical research and educational innovation.
For more information on the new building or to get involved, contact John.T.Greer@uth.tmc.edu or 713-500-4386.
By Erika Durham Hargrove, Dental Branch
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