As reported by The Hartford Courant, January 30, 2007.

Save UConn Dental Program

The University of Connecticut Health Center's program to recruit more minority dentists and expand dental care to poor communities should be preserved because it has been successful.

Unfortunately, the five-year grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that funded the program to the tune of $250,000 a year runs out on Aug. 31. The dean of the dental school, Dr. R. "Monty" MacNeil, says there is no money in the budget or from outside sources to replace it. The grant was awarded with the expectation that UConn and the 14 other dental schools that received their own foundation grants would cover the costs beyond the expiration date.

Surely there must be some funding mechanism that can keep such a worthy program going.

Pipeline, Profession & Practice: Community-Based Dental Education, as the program is called, operates under the premise that increasing the numbers of minority dentists will add much needed diversity to the profession and augment care to underserved areas.

To the extent that it expanded the pool of minority recruits, the program can claim success. When the grant was first issued, the dental school's share of minority students mirrored that of the rest of the nation: 6 percent. Today, UConn's proportion is 20 percent.

An estimated 100 million Americans have no dental insurance coverage. In Connecticut, about two-thirds of low-income children, most of them non-white, do not have regular dental care in large part because very few dentists accept payment by Medicaid.

Dr. Allan Formicola of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, who co-directs the grant program, also known as Dental Pipeline, says foundation officials hope to meet before Aug. 31 with the few schools that are having difficulty replacing the funds to explore alternative sources of financial support.

Dr. MacNeil says he hopes to save parts of the program that fit into the school's no-growth budgetary scheme. But that's hardly enough.

A benefactor needs to step up to the plate.