On June 10, overlooking downtown St. Louis and the Gateway Arch, a crowd numbering more than 300 gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the St. Louis Dental Education and Oral Health Clinic.
Marking a momentous occasion in MOSDOH’s history, the clinic is set for third-year dental students to improve oral health for individuals in St. Louis and beyond.
The event kicked off with a captivating rendition of “America the Beautiful,” sung a cappella by Alan Freeman, MBA, FACHE, president and CEO, Affinia Healthcare. ATSU President Craig M. Phelps, DO, ’84, served as master of ceremonies introducing VIPs, board members, state and local dignitaries, and all those who helped create the state-of-the-art facility. Each speaker echoed sentiments of gratitude and excitement.
“A year ago, this was an empty lot with overgrown weeds and trash,” said Dr. Phelps. “It has transformed into an icon for the future.”
In spring 2014, ATSU and Affinia Healthcare held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new, progressive dental clinic that promised to increase access to oral healthcare services for a population that has historically struggled to obtain such services. With the creation of the St. Louis Dental Education and Oral Health Clinic, that promise is a reality.
Dr. Halliday, Kara Gerber, and other members of the stage party lead the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Now a stunning addition to the downtown area, the spotless 79,000-square-foot clinic houses 92 dental operatories and is well-equipped to provide general, specialty, urgent, and special needs oral health services. The first floor comprises the urgent care, oral surgery, pediatric, and special needs areas, along with a large waiting area, classrooms, and faculty and staff offices. The second floor features another large waiting area, general dental chairs, and the endodontics treatment area. Rounding out the building, the third floor is open for future expansion.
“This magnificent structure is much more than a mere facility,” said Christopher Halliday, DDS, MPH, dean, MOSDOH. “Within the interior of this structure beats the heart of partnership.”
ATSU and Affinia Healthcare represent the primary partnership within the St. Louis Dental Education and Oral Health Clinic. MOSDOH faculty and staff develop and manage the curriculum for third- and fourth-year students, and Affinia Healthcare supervises clinic operations. Together, the two entities will develop community-based dentists who will improve the overall health of communities within Missouri and across the United States.
“I’ve never worked with a partner with greater integrity than the leadership and the staff at ATSU,” said Freeman. “They do what they say.”
Among those attending the grand opening were 42 dental students, the same 42 students who formed MOSDOH’s inaugural class. Prior to the grand opening, they spent 20 months preparing for clinical work, developing their hand skills on mannequins, and strengthening their educational services through volunteer events. As of July 1, the excited and thankful students began working in the clinic under faculty supervision.
“Witnessing the integrity of my talented student colleagues leaves no doubt we will serve the greater St. Louis community with gentle hands and kind intentions,” said Kara Gerber, D3, president, MOSDOH class of 2017.
The oral healthcare services provided by these students, faculty, and staff will undoubtedly improve the overall health of underserved communities for generations to come. The ultimate hope is to create a pipeline of patients to providers, where a child treated within the walls of this clinic will view his or her provider as a mentor, and one day that child will return to the clinic as a MOSDOH student, with the goal of eventually becoming a provider.
“Together, ATSU and Affinia Healthcare will foster the development of community-based healthcare providers who will in turn foster the development of healthier communities,” said Dr. Halliday. “Together, we will improve the quality of the lives of those we touch within the walls of this building.”