Dentistry looks forward to expansion

As demand for professionals rise and the applicant pool becomes more competitive, Marquette’s School of Dentistry is spending the year preparing for a $16 million expansion to its facilities.

Among those eager to get the facility up and running is Dean William Lobb, who believes a new workspace is necessary for the school to provide its innovative education.

“When we built the current building, we were limited by the budget available,” Lobb said. “Now we can dream the bigger dream for this building.”

The construction will be paid for in a joint effort with the state, which has contributed $8 million to the project. Marquette will raise the additional funds by asking alumni and others close to the university. The school has already raised $2.5 million since the recent start of its campaign.

Benefits of the new facility will include research space, practice rooms and an expanded clinical facility to support more patients, Lobb said.

Though a start date is dependent on fundraising, contractors said construction would take 12 months to complete.

For Lobb, the changes to the school in recent years have been a drastic shift from the traditional dental education he received in Canada and at the University of Michigan.

Specializing in orthodontics, Lobb said he “struggled to be a jack-of-all-trades” after his traditional dentistry education. During his time at Marquette, however, the school has been progressive in integrating disciplines to form students into multi-faceted general dentists.

“We want students to start behaving like dental professionals early,” he said. “This is something unique to our curriculum.”

Lobb has been dean at Marquette’s School of Dentistry since 1997. In the early 2000’s, the school moved from Cramer Hall to its current building, where Lobb pushed to make the branches of school “neighbors by discipline” by sharing space and interacting with each other.

Although his role as dean is primarily administrative, Lobb also teaches once a week in the graduate dental program.

Majed Khalifa, a sophomore in the School of Dentistry, is looking forward to utilizing an updated space to integrate the programs.

“The environment will be better,” Khalifa said. “Like other new buildings on campus, it will be refreshing.”

Another advantage of the new space will be an expanded simulation lab for student training and development of skills. Lobb said the current lab only houses 80 stations, and the simulators use a 10-year-old technology. The new facility will update existing technologies while allowing the growing classes to utilize it.

“We want to sustain that edge, so the technology is important,” Lobb said.

The current home of the School of Dentistry was designed with gathering spaces to mix faculty specializing in the different branches. Lobb said the school would benefit from an entire complex built with this integration in mind.

Gary Stafford, a general dentist in the school’s clinic, said a common workspace is essential for research and will attract high caliber faculty to join the school.

“By having an area specifically designed for research, the faculty will have an in-house location that should help to promote collaboration and enable the faculty to more effectively engage in their research endeavors, Stafford said.

Lobb said with 400 vacant faculty spaces in dental schools across the country, this expansion would also allow the school to be competitive in recruiting and maintaining faculty.

“To compete, you need an area for faculty to practice,” Lobb said. “We have outgrown our practice space.”

Currently the only joint dental school and clinic in Wisconsin, the school draws 2,500-3,000 applicants to fill its 80 spots per class, Lobb said.