"Laredo Health Department to hold ceremony officially opening newly"
Contacts: Xochitl Mora, City of Laredo, (956) 791-7461 Rosanne Fohn, UT Health Science Center San Antonio, (210) 567-3079 For immediate release Laredo Health Department to hold ceremony officially opening newly renovated Dental Clinic LAREDO (Feb. 20, 2009) — The City of Laredo Health Department will hold a ribbon- cutting ceremony at 9 a.m. Feb. 20 for its newly renovated Dental Clinic at 2600 Cedar Avenue. The clinic will provide dental care for patients of all ages and will serve as the primary clinical training site for two newly established dental residency-training programs based in Laredo. “This initiative is a culmination of several years working toward better dental health care and dental health care access for our underserved area,” said Dr. Hector F. Gonzalez, Director of the City of Laredo Health Department. The almost 6,000-square-foot $1.3 million renovated dental clinic is a state-of-the-art, fully equipped, 15-chair clinical training facility for dental residents from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. The clinic has up-to-date sedation equipment so that patients with urgent dental needs can receive care more comfortably. For years, children and the elderly, in particular, have lacked oral health care, either because they are uninsured or underinsured, or because of the lack of dentists. Local dental practitioners have made a tremendous effort to ensure that every person in Laredo and Webb County had access to good dental care. However, because the need is so overwhelming, private dentists (many who donated their time); public health officials; the federally qualified health center; and non-profits all teamed up for many years to insure access ,especially to early screening and preventive oral health care. “But, we knew that if the city didn’t educate our own dentists, we would remain underserved,” Gonzalez added. -more- City of Laredo Health Department Dental Clinic Opening / page 2 of 2 Over five years ago city officials and the health department met with then University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio President Dr. Francisco Cigarroa to discuss an extension of the dental school through a regional academic center which would provide training locally to expose those interested in the health professions to consider dentistry and to bring dental residents here from outside Laredo who might one day want to practice locally. “At the same time, patients would receive care in the most advanced and modern dental facilities available,” Dr. Gonzalez further stated. “That day is here.” “We are pleased the City of Laredo has permitted us to train our residents in this beautiful facility,” said UT Health Science Center Interim President William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP. “This will help our residents learn about a wide range of oral health conditions.” Louis Garcia, D.D.S., assistant professor at the UT Health Science Center, is director of the clinic and will oversee the Advanced Education in General Dentistry Residency Program. The Pediatric Dental Residency Program will be directed by Minerva Garcia, D.D.S., assistant professor and The Lamar Bruni Vergara Trust Distinguished University Chair in Oral Health. The two residency programs have been in place since July 2008. “We began our clinical training program in Laredo in 1994 with dental student rotations at the Gateway Community Health Center,” said William W. Dodge, D.D.S., vice dean of the Dental School. “With the support of our community partners here, we were able to start a prosthodontics residency rotation at Gateway in 1997, and three years ago, a periodontics residency program. We also have summer elective student rotations in dental disease prevention at Mercy Ministries.” The clinic was supported for operations and renovations from a number of partners, including the City of Laredo, the UT Health Science Center, the A.R. “Tony” and Maria J. Sanchez Family Foundation, Methodist Health Care Ministries and the Health and Human Services Commission. “This dream would not have become a reality without the support and guidance of Senator Judith Zaffirini; Representative Ryan Guillen; Representative Richard Raymond, as well Mayor Raul G. Salinas and the members of the Laredo City Council, and of course, our City of Laredo administration,” concluded Gonzalez.