James J. Fritts, D.D.S. Clinical Care Center dedication

School of Dentistry
Room S-116

Friday, March 02, 2018

IU President Michael A. McRobbie delivers a speech during the dedication of the new James Fritts, DDS Clinical Care Center at IUPUI on March 2. Photo by Liz Kaye, IU Communications

In a 1933 address at the laying of the cornerstone for the IU School of Dentistry building, IU’s 10th president, William Lowe Bryan, called the new building and the group of buildings that then made up the medical center campus “an inspiring sight.”

“Within these buildings,” President Bryan said, “science brings its service of healing to the people of Indiana.”1

Today, we celebrate the newest IU facility in which, 85 years later, science will continue to bring its service of healing to the people of Indiana—the James J. Fritts, D.D.S. Clinical Care Center.

The splendid new clinical care center is, of course, part of a school with a longstanding reputation for excellence and service to the people of Indiana. The IU School of Dentistry is the state’s only school of dentistry, and one of the oldest dental schools in the nation.

The school’s history dates back to 1879, with the founding of the Indiana Dental College. It was just the seventh dental school to open in the United States. The Indiana Dental College became the IU School of Dentistry in 1925, during the Bryan administration—an era when many of IU’s professional schools were established. Today, the research, clinical, and educational activities of the school—and IU’s other health science and clinical schools—the IU schools of medicine, nursing, optometry, social work, public health, and health and human sciences—are one of the major ways Indiana University contributes to the social and economic development of the state of Indiana.

One measure of the impact of these contributions is the fact that the vast majority of dentists practicing in the state of Indiana are alumni of the IU School of Dentistry. The school has approximately 8,500 living alumni who are engaged in successful careers in Indiana, across the nation, and in more than 30 other countries around the world. In addition to dentists, each year the school graduates new dental hygienists, dental assistants, and other specialists—many of whom continue to practice in the Hoosier state throughout their professional careers.

The school provides an important service in a state that continues to suffer from a shortage of trained dentists and where many Hoosiers, particularly those living in rural areas, have difficulty accessing quality oral health care, which can have a major impact on overall health and well-being. Only 16 of Indiana’s 92 counties currently have an adequate supply of dentists. Improving this alarming statistic is a shared goal of IU, the IU School of Dentistry, and our state’s legislators. I was very pleased that the Indiana General Assembly recently passed legislation that will expand Hoosier access to dental health care in rural and underserved areas.

The IU School of Dentistry also has a rich legacy of teaching, research, and service programs that have made major contributions to improved oral health, including the development of Crest Toothpaste by a team led by IU dental scientist Joseph Muhler. Countless other pioneering teachers and researchers in the school—have made major contributions to contemporary dental science.

The school also continues to expand its impressive international engagement efforts, including, for example, the International Dentist Program, which brings qualified graduates of international dental programs to IU to earn DDS degrees at IU. Another example is the impressive and productive partnership with the College of Dentistry at King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which I visited a few years ago. Through this partnership, faculty from both universities work together, and students from King Saud University study dentistry here in the school. In fact, many senior administrators and faculty members in the dental program at King Saud University are graduates of the IU School of Dentistry.

But, of course, the aging infrastructure of the IU School of Dentistry has had an impact on all of its operations. Given that the school provides treatment to around 20,000 patients a year, its clinical operations have, perhaps, been affected most acutely.

The state-of-the-art clinic we celebrate today is much-needed and long awaited. The school has been operating in facilities that were built in the 1930s, 1960s, and 1970s.

I had the pleasure of touring the clinic in late December of last year, just as the 22 semi-truckloads of high tech equipment were being installed across the clinic’s three floors. Even then, it was abundantly clear that, when fully operational, the clinic we dedicate today will make the IU School of Dentistry one of the most technologically advanced dental schools in the United States.

It is, as you will see if you tour it after this ceremony, a facility of the highest quality that will help the school to recruit and retain outstanding faculty and students. It will allow our students to train in a state-of-the-art technological environment. And it will serve countless patients by promoting optimal oral health. To borrow from William Lowe Bryan, in the Fritts Clinical Care Center, dental science will “bring its service of healing to the people of Indiana.”[2]

The expansion we dedicate today has been made possible through the extraordinarily generous support of alumni and friends of the school, including many who are here today. On behalf of Indiana University, let me express our most sincere thanks to all of you for your generous support.

And of course, I want to express our most grateful thanks once again to Dr. James Fritts, for whom the center will be named

Dr. Fritts is an alumnus of the school. He has had a long and successful practice in his hometown of Rochester, Indiana, has been one of the most passionate supporters of the clinical building project. He and his family have also, over the years, provided generous support for student scholarships in the school.

His generosity will touch the lives of countless students, faculty, staff, and patients—and it will help the IU School of Dentistry to continue to thrive for generations to come.

And his extraordinary generosity has inspired many others to lend their support to this center and to support other projects and programs in the school.

Would you join me once again in expressing our thanks to Dr. Fritts and his family?

I also want to commend and congratulate Dean John Williams and the many faculty, staff, and students of the IU School of Dentistry for their dedicated efforts that have helped make the new clinic a reality.

And I want to commend Vice President for Capital Planning and Facilities Tom Morrison, as well as the many design and construction professionals, both internal and external, who contributed to this project. Bill Browne of RATIO Architects is with us today. We extend our thanks to him and his colleagues, as well as to the many people from SmithGroup, R.E. Diamond and Associates, and Messer Construction whose work was also vital to the center’s design and construction.

Earlier, I quoted William Lowe Bryan’s words from the 1933 celebration of the laying of the cornerstone for the School of Dentistry building. In that same address, Bryan also said that the building was “but one evidence of what the university has done for dental education in Indiana.”[3]

Today, as we dedicate the James J. Fritts Clinical Care Center, we also celebrate all that the IU School of Dentistry has done for dental education in Indiana and beyond.

We can be confident that the future holds ever great promise for the school and ever greater progress in terms of the services the school and the clinic will provide to the citizens of Indianapolis, the state, and the world.

Thank you very much.

Source Notes

  1.  William Lowe Bryan, Address at the Laying of the Cornerstone of the Dental School Building of Indiana University, delivered May 16, 1933, IU Archives.