03/21/06 — Familiar: ECU dental school issue shaping up

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Familiar: ECU dental school issue shaping up

There is a familiar ring to the discussions about a proposed dental school at East Carolina University.

State Sen. Clark Jenkins of Edgecombe County was quoted in a recent Associated Press article as saying he feels the ECU dental school idea should be tied to what happens on other campuses, particularly the proposed expansion of the dental school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Already supporters of a dental school at ECU are planning to begin lobbying the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, which must approve new programs at any of the state’s 16 public universities.

That ostensibly was the case when efforts were initiated to establish the medical school at East Carolina. And the Board of Governors said it favored expansion of the medical school at Chapel Hill instead.

There were those who contended that such expenditures at the Greenville institution would have to be diverted from what more appropriately should be spent at what is widely regarded as the state’s flagship university at Chapel Hill.

But there were among us — people like then Lt. Gov. Jim Hunt, the late Tommy Strickland, at that time serving in the N.C. House from Wayne County, and newspapers like The Goldsboro News-Argus and the Washington Daily News — who felt the eastern half of the state needed a medical school and the hospital that would become a part of it.

Among other newspapers, the Raleigh News & Observer fought against the proposal.

The battle for the East Carolina Medical School finally was won in the halls of the Legislature.

And those of us who fought in the trenches for the school proudly contend that it is unparalleled in its contributions to the health of the people of Eastern North Carolina and its economic impact on a large part of that region.

If the dental school issue boils down to a decision between locating it at ECU or expanding the one at Chapel Hill, a virtual replay of the ECU Medical School scenario is predictable.

But the history and today’s importance of the ECU School of Medicine, plus the already expressed support of Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight and House Speaker Jim Black, should bode well for prospects of a dental school at ECU.

Published in Editorials on March 21, 2006 10:01 AM