A partnership between A.T. Still University’s Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health in Kirksville, Missouri and Grace Hill Health Centers led leaders to break ground on a new dental education and clinic building in St. Louis.

Grace Hill will manage the clinical side of the building. The 79,000-square-foot facility will be located at the intersection of Truman Parkway and Park Avenue, a short distance east of Lafayette Square.

“We see this as more than a clinic for our students,” said Craig Phelps, D.O., president of ATSU. “When we see young men and women from these neighborhoods fulfilling their dream to become a healthcare professional, working in this clinic, and returning to this community to provide healthcare to the people of St. Louis and Missouri, we will have reached our ultimate goal.”

Phelps estimated the facility will create about 90 jobs.

“The university chose that location specifically because of the population that it serves,” Phelps said, adding the partnership with Grace Hill Health Centers will helps them diversify the enterprise. Phelps said it is important that “our patients, as well as our employees that work with Grace Hill and the university, be reflective of the population in that area.”

Musick Construction and Cannon Design, both of St. Louis, will serve as the general contractor and architect for the project, respectively. 

AT Still’s general counsel said the university is well aware of diversity issues specified in the City Ordinance 68412 as well as the mayor’s executive order 46, which mandate workforce inclusion of women, minorities and apprentices on public works and TIF projects of scale in the city.

“One of the reasons we picked Musick is they have been successful in meeting these diversity requirements under the executive order,” said Matt Heeren, vice president and general counsel at A.T. Still University. “We are not a TIFF project; we are not receiving any city money; we are not a public works; so technically it does not apply to us,” he said, though the university still bid the project out with intentions of meeting those requirements to the best of its abilities.

“We actually met with SLATE [St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment] to try to identify the workforce that’s going to give us the people that will help us achieve the mandate under the executive order,” Heeren said.

“This is part of the bidding process. The actual workforce issue that we are talking about now is built in the bidding process so that people knew it was an expectation and a goal of ours.”

Phelps said diversity is embedded in the school’s mission, but numbers supplied by the university about its employees racial makeup reflect it is a work in progress.

Of the 23 employees at the Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health in Kirksville (including work-study students), 21( 91.3 percent) are white, with one black employee (4.3 percent).

Support staff in Missouri – which includes its School of Health Management, College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Missouri School of Dentistry and Oral Health – total 563 employees. Of those, 80.1 percent are white; 8.1 percent are Asian or Pacific Islander; blacks and Hispanics are 2.1 percent each; 1.4 percent are classified as American Indian or Alaska Native. “N/A” and “Other” accounted for 2.4 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively.

“One of our missions is to go out and serve the underserved, and we’re realizing we have to make the medical community more reflective of the patients we are trying to serve,” Phelps said. “We picked the city of St. Louis because of the great diversity it does offer, which is not typical of cities in the west or many cities of the Midwest.”

Site preparation for the new facility began April 15, with construction time estimated at 12 months. With a June 1, 2015 slated completion date for the new dental clinic, students will begin their third year clinical rotations in St. Louis later that month.

For more information, visit www.atsu.edu/mosdoh

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