Dentistry at USask PA campus receives largest donation in 50 years
- NC Raine | September 18, 2019
Affordable dentistry, one of northern Saskatchewan’s most under-resourced health services, will be receiving an uplift thanks to a large donation.
The University of Saskatchewan announced that dentalcorp, a Toronto-based company, has donated $1.05 million to the College of Dentistry at the future U of S campus in Prince Albert. The donation is the largest in the college’s history since its inception in 1968.
“We’ve always been looking to partner with the University of Saskatchewan – they are an unbelievable partner to their community and students, and their values align with our corporation,” said Julia Croll, Vice-President of corporate communications at dentalcorp.
“When they brought this opportunity to us in April, we couldn’t say no because it brings so much access to care to the community in Prince Albert. And it helps educate the students which in turn helps the communities,” she said.
The funds will be applied to the construction and equipment costs of the dental clinic, and in turn will help with improving access to dental care.
“We owe a great debt of gratitude to dentalcorp for their extraordinary generosity to this project,” said Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe at the Prince Albert campus ground-breaking on Monday. “A critical component to this new campus in Prince Albert is the dental clinic, (and will) provide a valuable community service here in Prince Albert.”
Doug Brothwell, Dean of the College of Dentistry, said there is a great need for increased dental care in northern communities, where services are intermittent and sporadic. A study from the Canadian Dental Association found that Indigenous people are amongst the most vulnerable Canadians in oral health.
“We still have a shortage of those who are providing dental care in northern communities. There’s a lack of infrastructure, there’s a lack of providers who have put their names forward and volunteered to go, so that’s where dental school comes in,” said Brothwell.
According to Brothwell, training programs like the one that will be offered at the campus in Prince Albert will help increase the number of dentistry graduates will are happy to work in northern and rural communities. He said he would like to see students start doing their workplace rotations up north, and for the Prince Albert campus to act as a referral hub for the rest of the northern communities.
“I need to ensure we’re training dentists that care for all parts of society in Saskatchewan. People are less likely to be involved in the care if they haven’t had any experience as part of their training,” said Brothwell.
This is where cultural appropriate practices come in, said Amrinderbir Singh, assistant professor or dental public health and director of inclusive community outreach at the College of Dentistry, which is essential in any health practice.
“I think (the impact of this donation) will be a big step forward in promoting, practicing, and teaching our students in inclusive community-based care,” said Singh. “It relates to both oral health, as well as the general health of people, and bringing culturally appropriate practices to dentistry.”
“This campus will serve as a gateway to the north, expand our services to those communities, and work to understand the needs of the people in those communities,” he said.
The clinic will be the university’s largest dental facility outside of Saskatoon. The increased opportunities, not only in dentistry, but in all disciplines at the future Prince Albert campus may work to encourage students in the north to take hold of their futures.
Sherry McLennan, regional director at the Metis Nation-Saskatchewan, who is also a former Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program graduate and education councillor, knows intimately how important it is to provide these sort of resources to northern young people.
“I’ve seen so many students that have come through my door, asking for sponsorships or asking which way to go with their career,” she said. “They need to know for themselves which direction they need to go. This is their future.”
The College of Dentistry will be located in the former Forestry Centre building in downtown Prince Albert, purchased by the U of S in 2018. The Prince Albert Campus is scheduled to open for the 2020 Fall term.