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Inside Dentistry
Nov/Dec 2005
Volume 1, Issue 2

Louisiana’s Only Dental School Continues Its Mission Following Hurricane Katrina

John O. Burgess, DDS, MS; Joanne Courville; Alan H. Ripps, DMD, MEd

Hurricane Katrina, a Category 4 hurricane, reached land on the Gulf Coast on August 29. The costliest and most destructive natural disaster in the history of the United States, Katrina resulted in breaches of the levee system that protected New Orleans from Lake Pontchartrain. Most of the city was subsequently flooded by the lake’s waters. More than a million people were displaced over a 3-state area, and the official death toll now exceeds 1,200. Hurricane Katrina damage estimates exceed $200 billion.

Unfortunately, the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center School of Dentistry (LSUSD), located in New Orleans, suffered considerable damage due to the flooding. In addition to halting the mission of LSUSD, the financial burden now facing the school is equally devastating.

LSUSD is the only dental school in the state of Louisiana; it educates more than 80% of the dental professionals practicing in the state today. Among the finest dental facilities in the world, it boasts over 220,000 square feet of clinic space and houses the state’s only oral health research facility. Its students and residents are responsible for nearly 100,000 patient visits in 22 locations throughout Louisiana, many of which are underserved areas. Considering that the school receives more than 60% of its operating budget from self-generated income sources—such as its clinics and research—the displacement caused by Hurricane Katrina means that these funds are no longer available to support its operations. Additionally, the school is now encountering significant costs to establish temporary lecture and clinic facilities in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Assessing the Devastation

The storm damage to the LSUSD permanent facilities in New Orleans is significant. The administrative and clinical buildings are currently uninhabitable because the school’s basement and first floors were flooded. The second floors and above—which housed clinics, pre-clinical labs, research facilities, classrooms, and office space—also received some damage as a result of leaky roofs and the loss of climate control. The main teaching auditoriums, which were used for student and continuing education lectures, were also significantly damaged from the leaky roof.

The basement housed a significant part of the school’s infrastructure, such as its mechanical and electrical systems. The first floors of both the clinical and administrative buildings are also now in ruin. The patient admissions area, faculty practice clinics, oral and maxillofacial surgery clinics, radiology clinics, clinical research facility, cafe, campus store, campus credit union, and all of the school’s security equipment and telephone support systems were damaged beyond repair.

The Recovery is in Progress

Fortunately, clinical and lecture courses for LSUSD students and residents began recently at a temporary location in Baton Rouge, which is approximately 60 miles northwest of New Orleans. Within our dental and dental hygiene classes, we have retained 318 students, and only 2 have transferred. Senior dental students resumed their clinical training in 4 of our Louisiana community clinics and in private practices statewide. The majority of our advanced education students are also continuing their programs in private practices and clinics throughout Louisiana. The remaining dental and dental hygiene students resumed classes on October 3, with lecture facilities having been established in Baton Rouge. A 32-chair clinic with lab support, as well as some pre-clinical rooms, will be housed in 3 vacant buildings that have been made available through Louisiana State University.

Although it is difficult to determine when the school’s operations will resume in New Orleans, early next year does not seem unreasonable if we are able to obtain the necessary funding. In addition to public funding, LSUSD is in dire need of private funds and product donations to sustain its operations in Baton Rouge and, at the same time, rebuild its school in New Orleans.

With that in mind, on behalf of everyone at LSUSD, we extend our sincerest appreciation to those companies that have stepped forward to help equip the temporary dental clinic in Baton Rouge. For example, AxiUm Dental Software Management is providing their premiere clinic software package; A-dec is donating 30 dental units for the temporary Baton Rouge dental clinic; Brasseler USA is donating all of the clinical instruments and burs; and SciCan is donating several autoclave units. In addition, the American Dental Education Association, the American Dental Association, the American Association of Orthodontics, and Delta Dental Insurance Company recently contributed generous financial gifts to help the school during this transitional time. Other companies and organizations have also been forthcoming and equally generous.

It’s Time for Action

Despite the terrible devastation, LSUSD will be rebuilt and its damaged buildings improved. It’s imperative that it do so. People are slowly rebuilding their lives in New Orleans and will soon be in need of quality dental care once again. Therefore, it is critical that LSUSD resume its normal operations as soon as possible to sustain its operations long term. Doing so requires a conscientious effort on everyone’s part.

Companies interested in contributing products or equipment to assist LSUSD during this transitional time are asked to please call (225) 763-2842, (225) 763-2844, or (225) 763-2840.

Organizations, corporations, and individuals who would like to make a financial contribution to LSUSD are asked to please issue your check payable to the “LSUHSC Foundation” and note on the check that the gift is for the LSUSD Relief Fund. Mail to:

The LSUHSC Foundation
P.O. Box 80578
Baton Rouge, LA 70898

The LSUSD extends its sincere appreciation to those who have and will support its mission of dental education, research, and patient care in Louisiana. We are on our way to recovery and look forward to a very prosperous future.

Dr. Eric Hovland, Dean of the LSUSD, meets with the National Guard at the dental school following Hurricane Katrina.
    Storm damage to permanent LSUSD facilities in New Orleans is significant. Clinical and administrative buildings—including those housing patient admissions areas and clinics (top)—are now in ruin, as demonstrated by this endodontic operatory (middle) and office (bottom). Photos courtesy of Dr. Alan Ripps.
About the Authors
John O. Burgess, DDS, MS
Assistant Dean for Clinical Research
Louisiana State University Health Sciences
Center School of Dentistry
Joanne Courville
Assistant to the Dean
Louisiana State University Health Sciences
Center School of Dentistry
Alan H. Ripps, DMD, MEd
Professor,Operative Dentistry & Biomaterials
Louisiana State University Health Sciences
Center School of Dentistry


With Sincere Gratitude
The Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center School of Dentistry (LSUSD) extends its sincere appreciation to the following companies and organizations for their generous support during this difficult time.
Air Techniques
American Dental Education Association
American Dental Association
American Association of Orthodontics
AxiUm Software
Brasseler USA
Delta Dental Insurance Company
Henry Schein
Ivoclar Vivadent
Patterson Dental
Schick Technologies
Sunstar Butler
Ultradent Products, Inc.

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