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Dental hygiene challenge grant campaign hits target

Buoyed by a flurry of December donations, the School of Dentistry’s campaign to match a challenge grant to support the Shoreline Community College dental hygiene program at its new UW home has reached its goal, officials have announced.

“I am thrilled that we completed the Delta Dental of Washington challenge grant and donations are still coming in,” Dean Gary Chiodo said.

Delta Dental initially gave $1 million in January to help fund the extensive renovations and new construction needed to support the dental hygiene program at the UW. The much-lauded program, which is still directed by Shoreline faculty, moved to the School of Dentistry in 2020.

At the UW, dental hygiene students work with dental students to treat patients much as they would in private practice. The dean has called the integrated programs “a model for dental and dental hygiene education.”

Shoreline Community College dental hygiene student Anela Becic treats a patient in the School of Dentistry’s pre-doctoral clinic. Shoreline Community College dental hygiene student Anela Becic treats a patient in the School of Dentistry’s pre-doctoral clinic.
Shoreline Community College dental hygiene student Anela Becic treats a patient in the School of Dentistry’s pre-doctoral clinic.

When Delta Dental made its initial gift, it also issued a $500,000 challenge grant with a deadline of Dec. 31. The Washington State Dental Association quickly joined the challenge campaign with a gift of $125,000, and the Seattle-King County Dental Society followed suit with a gift of $20,000.

In November, Dean Chiodo made a personal gift of $50,000 as a “challenge within a challenge,” pledging to match new donations to the Shoreline campaign up to that amount. At that time, Delta Dental also pledged to raise the level of its match from 1-to-1 to 2-to-1 until the $500,000 goal was reached.

The school will now realize at least $2 million in funding from the gifts to the campaign. Shoreline had already contributed $1.5 million to the expansion of its program, while the School of Dentistry also earmarked $1.5 million from its separate Campaign for Clinics fund-raising drive.

The campaign was launched amid an acute shortage of dental hygienists in Washington state, with a 2020 state Department of Health survey finding four open positions for every hygienist seeking work. The shortage is especially severe in King and Snohomish counties.

To help meet the demand, Shoreline and the School of Dentistry are planning to expand the two-year program back to its earlier level of 25 students per year as quickly as is feasible. Further expansion is possible as dictated by the dental workforce situation. To do so, however, requires extensive – and costly – work on the dental school’s clinical facilities, the dean said.

“These funds are essential as we complete renovation of our B350 clinic space and create a new simulation lab, as the first phase of infrastructure improvements that are needed for our partnership with Shoreline Community College,” he said. “We can now start planning for the second phase, which involves expansion of the existing D1 simulation lab and updating current clinical facilities that will be needed for expanding the dental hygiene class size back to 25 students per year. The new and improved operatories will benefit both the dental hygiene and dental students who will share the facilities to deliver efficient and outstanding patient care.”

With the Delta Dental match completed, the dean said, the dental school will now focus its capital fund-raising efforts on the Campaign for Clinics, which was launched in 2019 with a theme of “Imagine Our Future.” The campaign seeks to revitalize the school’s aging facilities, including much of the clinical infrastructure, and upgrade the school’s technological capabilities.

“As we learned in the process of renovating B350, it is costly to improve dental facilities in a building this old,” Dean Chiodo said. “We have more work to do to bring all of our clinical spaces up to date, and we will approach that incrementally, as capital funds come in.”