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Vol.26, No. 06 Oct. 16, 2000

Dental School Develops Primary Care Center for the Elderly in West Harlem

A groundbreaking ceremony attended by community, elected and University officials on Oct. 6 marked the start of the construction of Columbia’s School of Dental & Oral Surgery’s primary care center for the elderly, the first to be developed by a dental school.

The new 5,000-square feet health center, located in the Mannie L. Wilson Towers at W. 124th St. and Manhattan Avenue, will be the only facility of its kind to combine comprehensive oral and medical primary health care services targeted specifically for the needs of elderly and their families in northern Manhattan. The ground-floor facility is scheduled for completion in September 2001.

The primary care facility will contain five dental and six medical exam rooms, a dental lab and an X-Ray room. Staff will provide preventive dental services, dental exams, dental care and medical services in areas including internal medicine, ear, nose and throat, podiatry, ophthalmology, psychiatry, cardiology, surgery and rheumatology. In addition to diagnosis and treatment, health education and disease prevention programs will be available.

The project is being developed with the assistance of the Primary Care Development Corp., the West Harlem Group Assistance Inc., owners of the Mannie L. Wilson Towers, Phipps Houses, the managing agency of the Towers, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Faculty members from Columbia’s School of Dental & Oral Surgery and College of Physicians & Surgeons department of medicine at Harlem Hospital Medical Center as well as administrators will provide general oversight for the center.

“This center will address the needs of a very specific and large population in northern Manhattan —the elderly,” said Allan Formicola, dean of SDOS. “We look forward to working with Harlem Hospital Center and the community to make basic medical and dental primary care more accessible to seniors and their families.”

U.S. Rep. Charles B. Rangel, who represents northern Manhattan, said, “ Columbia University and Harlem Hospital Center have meant a great deal to this community. By working with community leaders and residents, both institutions were able to determine peoples’ needs and address them through the creation of this center.”

Charlie King, Housing Secretary Cuomo’s representative for New York and New Jersey, added, “The Columbia University center at Mannie L. Wilson Towers represents the vision of the kind of project that Secretary Cuomo has been working toward: an integrated approach to providing needed housing for low-income elderly alongside community-based health care services.”

Richard Cotton, chairperson of PCDC’s board of directors, and executive vice president and general counsel for NBC, said: “Since the center’s inception, the Primary Care Development Corporation has assembled nearly $100 million in grants and loan resources from banks, foundations and all levels of government This special community-based initiative of Columbia University Health Care Inc., in affiliation with Harlem Hospital and their partners, will create the 27th primary care facility financed through PCDC, bringing us one step closer to achieving our mission to expand and modernize New York City’s primary care infrastructure.”

Stephen Marshall, assistant dean for patient care of the Dental School and chief operating officer of the facility, emphasized, “This is a true collaborative effort between many partners and is a strong start toward meeting health care needs of the community.”

The center will be managed by two full-time, on-site clinicians, one dental and the other medical, who will have operational responsibility for the provision of services and their associated medical and dental teams. Oral health staff will include general dentists, dental hygienists and dental specialists. Internists, a physician’s assistant, specialists and registered nurses will provide primary care services. A full-time social worker will also be part of the comprehensive care team.

Sydenham Hospital was closed in 1980 during the Koch Administration. The Hospital provided much needed and convenient medical service for the Harlem Community.

—Office of External Relations, Columbia University Health Science Division,