PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- After years of planning and millions of dollars invested in construction and equipment, the University of New England welcomed its first class of prospective dentists to its Westbrook College Campus on Wednesday.
The twenty-four of the sixty-four students enrolled in the four year program come from eleven Maine counties. Later on in their studies, students will be traveling to clinics and dental practices throughout the state which will expose them to different communities in the hope that some of the dentists will remain in those underserved areas.
"There is a tremendous need here," stated Dr. James J. Koelbl, founding dean of the UNE College of Dental Medicine. "We know from past experience that if we can recruit students locally, and train students locally, and get them back into the community during their 4th year to deliver care, that the likelihood that they'll stay and practice in those areas is greatly increased."
"This was the largest geographic area in the United States without a dental school," explained Danielle Ripich, president of UNE. "We believe we are meeting a critical public health healthcare need."