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Health Center Today, February 16, 2011

Dental School Opens Lab, Honors Emeritus Professor

By Jennifer Huber

Photo of Drs. Grasso and MacNeil

Drs. Grasso and MacNeil at the entrance to the new Joseph E. Grasso Dental Simulation Lab.

Photos by Jennifer Huber

More than 80 donors, faculty and staff gathered recently to celebrate the dedication of the new Joseph E. Grasso Dental Simulation Lab at the UConn Health Center.

The $1.4 million, state-of-the-art facility will enhance preclinical training for first-, second- and third-year dental students. The existing laboratory space was renovated with funding from UConn 2000, the state’s 20-year initiative to renew and expand the University of Connecticut’s campuses. Nearly 140 alumni and friends of the school raised a total of more than $100,000 in private gifts to support academic programming in the lab.

“The Grasso Dental Simulation Lab is one of the finest in the country. This extraordinary lab offers UConn dental students the opportunity to train using the most advanced technology available. Indeed, we expect it to help attract the most promising students from Connecticut and across the country,” says Dr. Monty MacNeil, dean of the School of Dental Medicine. “We are enormously grateful to the many alumni and friends who have given generously to support this endeavor.”

The lab is named in honor of Professor Emeritus Dr. Joseph E. Grasso, a founding faculty member of the School of Dental Medicine. Grasso has taught every class of students that has graduated from the School of Dental Medicine during his 39 years at the UConn Health Center. He has trained and mentored hundreds of students who have gone on to practice dentistry across Connecticut and beyond.

He has left an indelible mark at the School of Dental Medicine and in the field of dentistry. Grasso, an internationally respected expert in prosthodontics, was instrumental in establishing the Department of Prosthodontics and developing the curricula. He has been invited to lecture around the world on removable prosthodontics. The Grasso Dental Simulation Lab pays homage to his dedication to teaching and dental medicine.

“This is a fitting tribute to my friend and colleague, Dr. Joseph Grasso. Joe is a remarkable teacher who has led the charge to continually innovate education and training since the UConn School of Dental Medicine opened its doors,” says MacNeil. “We are proud to honor Joe for everything he has given to the school.”

“I am moved by this great honor,” says Grasso. “World-class facilities and leading-edge technology are essential for educating and training students to become the very best dentists for our communities. It is a privilege to have my name on UConn’s state-of-the-art simulation lab.”

Photo of Dr. Joseph Grasso with family members

Dr. Joseph Grasso with family members who attended the opening of the new state-of-the-art simulation lab.

The 2,700-square-foot lab provides a comprehensive simulation experience to enhance dental training. It features 52 student workstations complete with technique benches, mobile simulators, dental lights and chair-side instrumentation. The facility is equipped with advanced audiovisual technology that enables faculty to record instruction and transmit video in real time to each student workstation as well as to several large digital monitors at the front of the teaching station. Video also can be transmitted in real time to other classrooms and labs throughout the Health Center and offsite locations.

“We are enormously excited to turn this vision into a reality. The cutting-edge Joseph E. Grasso Dental Simulation Lab is an important addition to our nationally top-ranked dental school. Named for a pioneer in modern dental training, this lab will help us train the dentists of tomorrow,” says Dr. Cato T. Laurencin, vice president for health affairs at the UConn Health Center and dean of the School of Dental Medicine. “We deeply appreciate the support of Dr. Joe Grasso’s many former students who gave generously to commemorate his legacy.”

To make a gift to the Joseph E. Grasso Preclinical Dental Lab Fund to support academic programming in the Grasso Dental Simulation Lab, contact the UConn Foundation