Meharry Medical College’s School of Dentistry will launch a new innovation center (IC) to house the latest in dental technology and materials to prepare students for modern-day dental practice. The center will be supported in part by the 2023 Innovation Center Award, which was awarded to the Meharry School of Dentistry by the Center for Research and Education Technology (CRET). The center is slated to open within the next year and the Class of 2025 will be the first cohort of students to avail themselves of its features.
The IC, located within the School of Dentistry’s main building, will allow Meharry to introduce the latest in dental and digital technology including innovative products to its dental school. In collaboration with CRET, Meharry will expand its educational areas to replicate real-life dental practices with five new examination rooms. Each room will consist of different equipment and materials selected by Meharry faculty such as computerized crowns and bridges, intra-oral digital scanners, laser equipment, salivary diagnostics, oral care probiotics, and other advanced restorative materials. The IC will be designed like a private dental office where students will treat patients in collaboration with dental hygienists, and assistants.
Once the plan is developed, CRET will facilitate the introduction of equipment, merchandise and training with CRET members and Meharry faculty. The past CRET IC awards have an estimated value of over $1 million worth of equipment, merchandise, design, installation, and training services, provided at no or significantly reduced cost to Meharry.
“I’m thrilled and honored to launch the new innovation center for our dental students,” said Cherae Farmer-Dixon, D.D.S, MSPH, FACD, FICD, dean and professor of Meharry’s School of Dentistry. “The innovation center allows our school to expand and amplify our student’s educational experience by incorporating new technology, equipment, and practices into the current curriculum. The more our students learn, the better care they will provide to our nation’s dental patients, including those in minority and underserved communities.”
Minority and underserved populations continue to bear a disproportionate burden of oral diseases due to inadequate access to effective dental services and the lack of diversity within the dental workforce. Currently, there are only approximately 8,000 Black dentists in the United States, 27% of whom graduated from Meharry who then continued on to work in impoverished communities where the need for oral health services is great. Training the next generation of dentists with innovative technology, equipment and techniques that will replicate a modern dental facility is a key part of the solution to ensure all communities of equitable access to dental care.
“Oral health is critical to the overall health and well-being of patients, yet significant oral health disparities persist in our country due to a lack of access to qualified and well-trained dental professionals,” said James E.K. Hildreth, Ph.D., M.D., president/CEO of Meharry. “At Meharry, we pride ourselves in training individuals who will routinely care for our low-income and uninsured communities throughout the world. The innovation center allows us to deepen our dental student’s knowledge and train more dentists who will serve minority populations and provide them with the dental care they need and deserve.”
Each of the five examination rooms at the center will incorporate equipment and technology from different manufacturers to ensure that Meharry dental students are exposed to a variety of devices. Manufacturers will provide instruction for the new equipment to guarantee all necessary training is in place for students and faculty to utilize the equipment.
“CRET is pleased to award Meharry College School of Dentistry with an Innovation Center. As the newest Dental School recipient of the award, the CRET Innovation Center will elevate each student’s experience in operating in an environment that will replicate what they will find in a practice when they graduate. In addition to the exposure to different equipment and materials, the ability to learn how best to utilize staff in a team environment, will give the student the skills to work independently once they graduate,” said Debora Bridges, CEO/chair of CRET Executive Committee.