UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry awarded $2 million federal grant to support special-care dental clinic


The UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry has been awarded a $2 million federal grant to support a large special-care dental clinic that will serve the community and provide training for students.

The grant over five years from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will fund personnel and operating costs of the clinic, to be known as the Phil and Karen Hunke Special Care Clinic, named for San Antonio-area philanthropists who provided seed money for the project. Phil Hunke, DDS, is a retired pediatric dentist.

The clinic will serve adults with special needs as well as children with “medical complexities” including those with developmental and physical disabilities, and will be housed in the school’s Center for Oral Health Care and Research.

“This grant will address service to a vulnerable population, and special-needs populations are significantly underserved,” said Micaela Gibbs, DDS, MHA, the school’s chief dental officer and principal investigator for the grant award. “The potential to make an impact is significant.”

The clinic, the first of its kind in an academic setting in South Texas, will build on the region’s most comprehensive dental practice, where patients receive care from experienced dentists, renowned specialists, advanced graduate residents or dental students overseen by faculty of the state’s top-ranked dental school. Currently in the final process of hiring architects for renovations of available space in the school’s Center for Oral Health Care and Research complex, the clinic is expected to open by January 2024. The space will include seven dental treatment rooms and five IV sedation suites.

“There are not enough dentists who provide care to those with disabilities,” said Peter Loomer, DDS, PhD, the school’s dean. “Since starting my tenure at the school three years ago, it has been my vision and mission to build this clinic to both directly provide care and, equally important, train our students to feel confident in providing care to those with disabilities in their dental practices after they graduate. Everyone deserves access to dental care.”

In addition to serving patients from throughout South Texas, the facility also will provide academic and clinical training to students in special-care health care across several disciplines, including dental and dental hygiene, but also medical, physician assistant and nursing students. Area dentists additionally will be able to refer patients with physical or cognitive impairments to the clinic to receive the special care and attention that can be difficult to find.

“Interprofessional classes and care experiences will ensure that future generations of health care providers are able to collaborate, communicate, plan for care and deliver care for patients with complex needs,” Gibbs said.

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