Marquette University School of Dentistry receives $1 million HRSA grant to expand special needs care capacity and education

Nov. 17, 2022

Sen. Baldwin, Dean Lobb and two dental studentsMILWAUKEE — The Marquette University School of Dentistry has been awarded a $1.02 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to update clinic equipment and increase capacity for the care of patients with special needs at the state of Wisconsin’s only dental school.

This award will support the nearly 50 operatories within the School of Dentistry’s clinics. This includes the Advanced Care Clinic, which serves adult patients with special needs, especially those who have “aged out of care” offered by Children’s Wisconsin.

“Children’s Wisconsin’s dental practice alone has more than 5,000 patients with special needs, including 500 adults who have aged out of care,” said Dr. William Lobb, dean of the Marquette School of Dentistry. “Typically, only 10% of dentists care for patients with cognitive, medical or physical disabilities and the services needed are often not covered by private or state insurance plans. We are partnering with Children’s Wisconsin to transition 500 special needs adults to our Advanced Care Clinic. It is imperative to have an adequate number of dental providers educated and trained to manage the oral health care needs of patients with special needs preferably in a non-hospital-based setting.”

The School of Dentistry is building upon its efforts to tackle a dual crisis in the care of this population and the professional training of its graduates to care for special needs patients. Through its partnership with Children’s Wisconsin, Marquette facilitates a Special Needs Dental Education Program (SNDEP), which enables second-year dental students to observe special needs pediatric dental care in clinical settings as an initial experience. The experience students gain through the program augments their didactic and clinical experiences in the Advanced Care Clinic, which — with more special needs patients — will heighten the ability to manage such cases as practicing dentists in traditional dental settings.

Marquette has one of the largest, most active Special Care Dentistry Association student chapters nationwide, and through the SNDEP, has developed an in-home-to-clinic desensitization program for special needs patients prior to visiting the dental school clinics.

“The mission at the Marquette School of Dentistry is to make dental care accessible to all who need care, including those with special needs,” said U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who helped secure this federal funding for Marquette in legislation signed into law by President Biden earlier this year. “This federal funding will expand their capacity to treat those patients with special needs, as well as expand the capacity of Wisconsin’s future dentists to do the same. Moving the treatment of these patients outside of hospital-based care will be more efficient and cost-effective for the patient, provider networks, and Wisconsin.”

Wisconsin’s only dental school since 1894, the Marquette School of Dentistry educates and trains future dentists, promoting oral health statewide. Its mission is to achieve excellence in education, research, and service, resulting in high quality oral health care. Consistent with Marquette traditions and Catholic, Jesuit values, the school recruits and educates a diverse student body, fosters personal and professional excellence, and promotes leadership expressed in service to others. The School of Dentistry’s network of clinics treats patients from 66 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, serving 30,000-plus individuals through 110,000-plus annual visits.

The Health Resources and Services Administration is the primary federal agency for improving health care to people who are geographically isolated or economically or medically vulnerable. This includes programs which support health infrastructure, including through training of health professionals and distributing them to areas where they are needed most, providing financial support to health care providers, and advancing telehealth.

About Kevin Conway

Kevin Conway

Kevin is the associate director for university communication in the Office of University Relations. Contact Kevin at (414) 288-4745 or