Dalhousie University uses $1M gift to create dental suites to treat people with disabilities

Dalhousie University is using a $1 million gift from former students to create two dental suites designed for patients with physical and intellectual disabilities.

Dr. Theresa Chiang donated the money in memory of her late husband Dr. Wah Jun Tze. The couple met at Dalhousie as students.

Chiang has practised, taught, lectured and published widely on pediatric dentistry and child health. She and her husband Dr. Tze, who was a pediatric physician, co-founded the Canada China Health Foundation and the Global Child Health Society. 

The university said in a news release Friday the Tze/Chiang Paediatric and Adult Special Needs Clinic will improve care for patients, reduce wait times for oral surgeries and enhance the training for students and residents of the Faculty of Dentistry.

“Through Dr. Chiang’s work as a pediatric and special needs dentist and the incredible efforts she and Dr. Tze took to improve the health of children and those with special needs, she knows how urgently clinics like these are needed everywhere,” Dr. Ben Davis, dean of the Dalhousie faculty of dentistry, said in the release.

The $1 million will equip two dental surgical suites with specialized apparatus. Dalhousie says more than 1,000 Nova Scotians are waiting for oral health care in such a facility.

“Our patients and their families deal with the uncertainty of wait times for treatment and the extra burden of finding oral health care for their young adult children after we can no longer see them,” Dr. Evan Shaw said in the release. 

Shaw is the director of Dalhousie’s pediatric dentistry general practice residency program and a pediatric dentist at the IWK Health Centre.

He says the new clinic will offer students an opportunity to treat and learn from patients with disabilities earlier in their career. 

“When they graduate, our students will have the experience and confidence to bring these patients into their practices for routine and preventive care, ultimately reducing the need for more invasive care in the future.”

Dr. Chiang also helped create a similar dental program for children in Vancouver, where she currently lives. She says it takes collaboration between many partners to make these clinics a success.

“The optimal outcome of this program requires the coordination of pediatric dentistry, anesthesiology, hospital interdepartmental support, adequate facilities and equipment, as well as support from government and the provincial dental society,” she said.

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