A vision for the future
[ Words: Will Peakin ]
It is anticipated that work will begin this summer on the new Cork University Dental School and Hospital (CUDSH).
“The vision, when it opens in 2023, is for a leading centre of excellence, providing quality patient care for the community; shaping the dental team of tomorrow through education, research and innovation,” said Helen Whelton, head of the College of Medicine and Health.
The state-of-the-art facilities will provide increased capacity for students, both national and international, as well as integration and enhancement of key research goals, and enhanced student experience through practical teaching and learning.
The existing school and hospital, including the Oral Health Services Research Centre, comprises 5,557m² of space; the new development will increase this to 8,710m², over five floors and with adjoining clinical and education/administration blocks.
The clinic block will house 140 dental chairs across primary dental care, acute emergency care, oral surgery, medicine, and radiology, as well as a conscious sedation suite and recovery area. The chairs will also cover special care dentistry, paediatric dentistry, orthodontics and restorative dentistry. The block will also contain a postgraduate research and innovation centre, which will include an oral research/translational research laboratory.
There will be an imaging department, a central decontamination unit, support spaces for clinics, as well as sensory rooms on the ground and upper floors for special care and paediatric dentistry patients.
The education and administration block will house a 72-bench simulation laboratory, haptic lab, library, staff offices, administration area and facilities management, café, auditorium, seminar rooms, and staff and student support spaces, including a multifaith prayer room.
The new dental hospital, estimated cost around €45m, is one of four key developments that form the backbone of UCC’s “grand plan” for medicine and health which, when completed, will add substantially to the research and innovation capabilities of the region. As well as the dental school and hospital, there are plans for a €16.5m, 3,500 m² Health Innovation Hub Ireland (HIHI) building in Curraheen, a 3,000 m² Clinical Medical School, on the existing Cork University Hospital campus, and a 20,000 m² Clinical Research Network Hub on the site currently occupied by the existing dental hospital at CUH.
Whelton, formerly the Dean of Dentistry at the University of Leeds, who has led multiple regional and national oral health surveys in Ireland and worked on oral health development internationally, spoke about how the school and hospital will integrate with other medical facilities, the implications for oral health learning, and what it will mean for the dental profession and wider public health.
“It focuses on our aspirations to significantly expand the postgraduate function and associated research outputs in line with UCC’s strategic plan. That is to deliver an outstanding, student-centred teaching and learning experience with a renewed, responsive, research-led curriculum at its core and to be a leading university for research, discovery, innovation, entrepreneurship, commercialisation and societal impact.”
Whelton added: “In this time of change a new national oral health policy, Smile agus Sláinte, has been launched. The policy emphasises re-orientation of services, elimination or minimisation of inequalities, along with education and upskilling of the dental workforce. The strategic strands of the policy indicated are the availability of advanced oral healthcare centres, oral health evaluations across the life course and pathfinder surveys.
“The philosophy underpinning the policy should enable successful development of the CUDSH research and postgraduate strategy as well as the new designated postgraduate, research and innovation floor where CUDSH can continue to grow existing thematic strengths – outcomes research and dental materials research – in line with the UCC’s goals to the year 2022.”
Taking positive steps
The Postgraduate and Research Strategy, enabled by the new build facilities, will facilitate CUDSH to:
- Develop multi-disciplinary research in collaboration with academic units in UCC and further afield
- Increase incrementally the number of research students at doctorate and masters level from 20 per cent to 25 per cent
- Encourage PhD theses by publication
- Maintain the high standard of all research theses and publications through close monitoring of activity and publication citation profile
- Monitor and promote publications from research conference abstracts
- Promote publications in the top 20 per cent of dental journals worldwide, by undertaking research of clinical importance and relevance
- Increase the number of applications for research prizes among members of CUDSH at national and international level with local encouragement
- Increase grant funding through strengthened external research collaboration – local, nationally, internationally with a focus on multi-disciplinary research
- Facilitate staff development and research productivity.