GREENVILLE, N.C. – The East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine’s transformational care for the dental needs of rural and underserved populations is growing with funding and accolades from the Hearst Foundations.

The $100,000 grant, awarded in December, is the first time ECU has earned support from Hearst Foundations, which identify and fund outstanding nonprofits to ensure that people of all backgrounds in the United States can build healthy, productive and satisfying lives. The funds will boost efforts by ECU to provide dental care to uninsured and low-income rural patients in Hyde County and other SoDM clinics in North Carolina.

“I believe – through these amazing clinics – ECU is the only institution doing such exceptionally comprehensive work,” said Ligia Cravo, senior program officer with Hearst Foundations. “The focus was incredibly rich. They are united by an unconditional mission of service to underserved communities.”

Cravo said she could sense the genuine dedication to mission from the moment she arrived for a site visit. Cravo toured the SoDM facilities and the Community Service Learning Center in Ahoskie to see an example of the school’s focus on innovative solutions to rural health care. 

The funding supports what Cravo described as high-quality, state-of-the-art level care provided by the SoDM and by the passionate commitment of its faculty and students to serving the neediest, irrespective of patients’ ability to pay or the complexity of procedures required.

The SoDM will use the Hearst Foundations grant to purchase additional portable dental equipment and provide Patient Care Funds, which enable the SoDM to support individuals who need assistance paying for dental care, beginning in Hyde County.

“We are honored to be recognized by the Hearst Foundations as we work to fulfill our mission of serving the people of North Carolina,” said Dr. Greg Chadwick, dean of the ECU School of Dental Medicine. “Generous grants like this one from the Hearst Foundations allow us to serve even more patients in rural and underserved communities, provide our students with high-quality educational and clinical experiences and create innovative solutions to the oral health challenges in our region and state.”

Evaluation of proposals by the Hearst Foundations includes extensive review, financial analysis and a site visit by staff.

“The SoDM’s work is very much at the heart of what we strive for at the Hearst Foundations to ensure healthcare access to underserved populations,” Cravo said. “It’s truly rewarding to find a rural partner who provides care on the extensive scale that we aspire to support.”

The Hearst Foundations receive more than 1,000 grant requests annually. Of those, about 300 requests receive funding.

“It is my hope that the SoDM’s exceptional and proven model of patient-centered care will inspire replication nationwide,” Cravo said.

Funding from the Anonymous Trust to the SoDM in 2019 lead the effort to address the dire need for dentists in Hyde County, where there are only two medical centers and no dentist on staff. Initial funding of more than $144,000 supplied portable dental equipment and personnel from ECU to travel to Hyde County and launched the Hyde County Outreach Clinic in Swan Quarter. 

ECU is in the public phase of the Pursue Gold campaign to raise half a billion dollars. This ambitious effort will create new paths to success for Pirates on campus, across the country and around the world. Donor gifts during the campaign will keep us constantly leading and ready to advance what’s possible. Learn more at pursuegold.ecu.edu.