Though The Dental College of Georgia’s origin story officially begins in 1969, when the Medical College of Georgia’s School of Dentistry admitted its first class of 24 students, that start date came after about a decade of careful, sometimes tedious groundwork.
At the time, Georgia was undergoing a period of rapid growth, and the state’s dentistry needs were being filled only by those dentists who chose to relocate to the state and by those graduating from Emory University’s School of Dentistry.
That wasn’t enough, so after years of meetings between the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, the dental community and the General Assembly, Gov. Carl Sanders, an Augusta native, signed a resolution authorizing the construction of the state’s dental school in 1966.
Wasting no time, Dr. Judson Hickey was appointed dean of MCG’s School of Dentistry that same year, and he and his early team immediately began re-envisioning dental education, taking it from what many considered a four-year initiation rite to a collegial atmosphere focused on instruction, investigation and involvement. The faculty they assembled included clinicians, clinical scientists and basic science instructors who taught with a dental focus. In other words, they wanted to provide a dental-specific education from start to finish.
By the time that first class was admitted, the School of Dentistry had 35 faculty members, and for a couple of years it operated out of temporary facilities scattered across what is now the Health Sciences Campus. In 1971, clinical and materials sciences joined patient care at a new building on Laney-Walker Boulevard (now Professional Building 1), and in 1975, the basic sciences moved in, too.
As dental schools started to close throughout the 1970s and ’80s, including the one at Emory, increasing class size became a priority, as did addressing the need to better include underrepresented populations into the profession. The targeted programs pioneered by the School of Dentistry were recognized for their success and emulated by other institutions across the nation.
After years of raising money for a new facility, the dental school moved to its current location in 2011 — a $112 million, 270,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility. A year after its completion, the building was Silver LEED-certified.
In 2015, the school was renamed The Dental College of Georgia, aligning with the names of the Medical College of Georgia and the Children’s Hospital of Georgia.
The yearlong observance culminates at the 50th anniversary celebration during Alumni Weekend.