A House subcommittee heard testimony yesterday that Georgetown University's decision to close its 86-year-old dental school will leave low-income city residents without a major source of dental care.
Rep. Mervyn M. Dymally (D-Calif.), chairman of the House District Committee's subcommittee on judiciary and education, told university administrators, faculty and students that the decision to close the school -- and its large dental clinic -- "evidences the will to do less."
The clinic is said to be the largest in the nation, averaging 200,000 patient visits a year and providing dental care to many low-income and indigent patients in several community outreach programs conducted by the school.
Dymally recommended arranging a national meeting at the school to address a problem of declining enrollment at U.S. dental schools, which he said could be partly solved through communication and discussion among administrators and faculty, he said.
Dr. Laszlo Sokoly, a former dental school faculty member, said the purpose of appearing before the committee was "to talk and to listen and to see what is the point of Georgetown closing the school."
Georgetown administrators said the dental school has severe looming financial problems, based largely on the difficulty of filling the school's classes with high-quality students. Annual tuition of $15,000 and a diminishing pool of applicants forced officials to reduce the size of classes, and ultimately to decide to close the school.
"The reasons for Georgetown University to continue as a national resource of dentistry are not there. Unless this changes, the decision is final," said the Rev. Byron Collins, special assistant to the president of the university.
Earlier this month, students and faculty members at the school filed suit seeking to block the school's closing for at least a year. The plaintiffs contend that the decision to close was made with only "limited discussion" and "without sufficient and/or factually accurate information."
Dr. William Cotton, professor and chairman of the Department of Operative Dentistry at the school, told the subcommittee that the decline of the school's applicant pool is insignificant and that a five-year plan developed by the faculty for the survival of the dental school was rejected "without feedback or suggested alternatives."