LUMBERTON — Area residents are already showing interest in receiving free or reduced-cost dental care at East Carolina School of Medicine’s new community learning center in Lumberton.
The expected opening of the learning center is still about two months away, but both The Robesonian and staff at the dental school’s main campus, located in Greenville, have been contacted and asked about being put on a list of patients to be seen as soon as the Lumberton center opens.
“We are still not signing up patients. There’s no list at this time,” Dr. Michael Scholtz, the assistant dean overseeing the construction of the clinic, recently told The Robesonian. “There’s not even a phone number assigned yet, but when there is, we will let people know.”
According to Scholtz, construction of the learning center is nearing completion. He said it will be the end of October or early November before everything is in place and the center is ready to open its doors.
The 7,700-square-foot center is being constructed in front of the Pinecrest Country Club, near the county Department of Social Services on N.C. 711 and adjacent to the Pinecrest Village subdivision. It is located on 2.5 acres of land that was donated to the university by the Robeson County commissioners in 2012.
The center, which will be a training center for students, will also provide dental care to residents of Robeson County and surrounding rural counties at bargain prices. Greg Chadwick, dean of the dental school, has said that the Lumberton center will see both Medicaid patients and patients who will pay on a sliding scale.
Originally, the center was to open this month, but there have been construction delays. The outside looks complete, with some landscaping going on, but there is still work inside to furnish and equip the center.
Chadwick said earlier this summer that centers are expected to open in Spruce Pines and Davidson County at about the same time as the Lumberton center.
The center in Lumberton is one of 10 the ECU dental school will eventually open in rural areas across the state. It will provide a community-based site for fourth-year dental students and post-graduate residents to learn and sharpen their skills, as well as provide the free and reduced-cost dental care to qualifying residents.
University officials said during a groundbreaking ceremony in September that the Lumberton center is part of a strategy to address the shortage of dentists in rural areas. Centers are now up and running in Sylva, Ahoskie, Elizabeth City and Lillington.
When the Lumberton center opens, there will be five fourth-year dental students in addition to faculty and resident graduate students using the facility.