Dental education has a long history in Louisiana, dating as far back as 1861, with the establishment of the New Orleans Dental College (1861-1877), followed by the New Orleans College of Dentistry (1899-1909), and dental schools at Tulane (1909-1928) and Loyola (1914-1971).
When Loyola could not afford to continue its dental program, the Louisiana Legislature authorized the building of a dental school as part of the LSU System. The transfer of operations from Loyola to the new LSU School of Dentistry (LSUSD) occurred over the next four years. The last class of Loyola dentists graduated in 1971. The first class of 27 LSUSD dentists graduated on June 3, 1972.
Edmund E. Jeansonne, DDS, was LSUSD’s first dean. A New Orleans native, he was technically dean of two dental schools at one point—both Loyola and LSUSD. He also served two terms as dean of LSUSD—from 1966 to 1974 and 1974 to 1976. Allen A. Copping, DDS, briefly served as dean in 1974 before his appointment as chancellor of the LSU Medical Center (now LSU Health) that same year. Dr. Jeansonne served as dean for two more years. Ultimately, Dr. Copping became president of the LSU System.
In 1964 the State of Louisiana acquired the 22-acre tract of land in Mid-City near City Park from the federal government. The U.S. Navy had previously used the 30 barracks on the site for housing during World War II. Dental students were temporarily educated in the barracks from 1968 until 1972, while the school’s permanent facility was under construction.
The state secured a grant from the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare to construct a permanent physical plant for the school. The 344,000 square foot project cost $15.5 million to build. Of this total, $10.5 million came from the federal government and $5 million from the State of Louisiana. Formal dedication of the new building took place on Friday, February 18, 1972.
Jack H. Rayson, DDS, MA, became dean in 1976 following Dr. Jeansonne’s decision to return to teaching full-time in the Department of Prosthodontics. During Dr. Rayson’s tenure, female enrollment rose from six to 29 percent, and minority enrollment climbed from one to 17 percent. In the leanest of times, he also found funds to support research and equipment purchases to enhance education and patient care.
In 1993, Eric J. Hovland, DDS, MEd, MBA, was appointed dean, serving for the next 25 years. During his tenure, he established a satellite dental hygiene program and clinic in Lafayette, a clinic in New Orleans for the treatment of patients with HIV/AIDS, and the Tooth Bus for the treatment of children throughout New Orleans. He also strengthened the continuing education program offered through LSUSD, created a Master of Science in Oral Biology (now Master of Dentistry), created a competency-based curriculum, and established the first patient simulation laboratories for preclinical instruction.
The school relocated following Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 due to extensive flooding and damage to its main campus in New Orleans. Dr. Hovland and a skeleton crew of faculty members and staff heroically led the effort to build a temporary dental campus on the South Campus of LSU in Baton Rouge within three months to continue classroom and clinical education for most of the student body. They also tapped into 40 years of goodwill among the school’s alumni resulting in a network of 182 dentists, oral surgeons and dental hygienists in the community who agreed to supplement the clinical training of the school’s fourth-year students and residents. Two years after Hurricane Katrina, students, faculty and staff returned to the main campus in New Orleans.
A year later in October 2008, LSUSD welcomed its current dean, Henry A. Gremillion, DDS, MAGD, a 1977 graduate of the school. Dr. Gremillion oversaw multiple renovations on the school’s main campus in New Orleans. The common areas, which include the cafeteria and campus grounds, underwent a total transformation. A new patient parking lot and additional parking for students and faculty contributed to a better quality of campus life. The renovation of two main teaching auditoriums, the student wet labs and the distance-learning classroom were completed. The expansion of the student advanced practice clinic made the accommodation of a lab possible. A new clinic equipped to streamline and improve the patient-screening process was also established.
Relocation of a satellite clinic for general practice residents following the 2014 closure of the South Campus of LSU provided a continuation of dental services for patients in the Baton Rouge area. After Earl K. Long Hospital closed in 2013, a partnership with Our Lady of the Lake (OLOL) Hospital in Baton Rouge also helped to ensure continuation and expansion of patient care. LSUSD oral and maxillofacial surgery and general practice residents rotate through clinics at OLOL.
On March 17, 2015, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that it had approved a $58.4 million grant to LSUSD for mitigation of damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. In early 2016, nearly $75 million worth of construction began on campus. The complete overhaul and renovation of the student preclinical laboratories on the seventh floor of the E.E. Jeansonne Clinical Building occurred within two years for approximately $9 million. Patient reception areas for the specialty programs in the clinical building were also renovated during this time.
The new Advanced Clinical Care and Research Building, constructed at a cost of $51.4 million, opened in early 2018. The first new permanent building on the campus since 1972, the 64,899 square-foot building houses $2.5 million of medical equipment, four clinics, and research labs. Local dignitaries and residents from the adjacent DeSaix neighborhood joined LSU Health New Orleans leadership and the dental school community at the grand opening celebration on May 23, 2018.
Grand Opening of the Advanced Clinical Care and Research Building on May 23, 2018. (l-r): Dr. Kristopher Rappold, alumnus and then president of the New Orleans Dental Association, Dr. Jeffrey Kerst, then fourth-year dental student, Dr. Henry Gremillion, Dean of LSU Health School of Dentistry, Dr. Kristi Soileau, alumnus and member of the LSU Health Foundation Board of Directors, and Dr. Larry Hollier, Chancellor of LSU Health.
The new building significantly increases the school’s capacity to provide excellent dental care to patients through its faculty dental practice. The 22-chair LSU Faculty Dental Practice provides care in general dentistry, endodontics, periodontics, prosthodontics, orthodontics, oral pathology, radiology/diagnostics with a cone-beam CT unit, and dental hygiene. The area also contains a consultation room, laboratory, sterilization rooms, reception area and a business office. The separate LSU Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Clinic has nine surgical treatment rooms, one diagnostic room with a cone-beam CT unit, a laboratory and consult rooms. The Outpatient Surgical Center features two state-of-the-art operating rooms with pre- and post-op areas, a nurses’ station and a sterilization area. The Clinical Research area boasts five dental operatories, a reception area, laboratory, business office and a conference room. With multiple specialties under one roof, patients benefit from closer collaboration and easier consultation among the dental specialists who work side by side. The new facility also enhances research capacity, both in the basic sciences and clinical research, offering patients and participants the very latest treatment advances.
LSUSD is the only dental school in Louisiana. Students, residents and faculty provide care in multiple locations statewide with an average of 100,000 patient visits annually. Each year the school also participates in community outreach events to reach the underserved and impoverished in our state. Dental screenings, sealant placement, oral health education, and direct care are among the services offered.
The school educates three of every four dentists and dental hygienists practicing in the state. Over 6,000 dentists, dental hygienists, lab technicians, and dental specialists have been educated at LSUSD since its inception in 1968, representing nearly 80% of the dental health care professionals in Louisiana.
LSUSD is unique among dental schools in the United States because it offers degrees in dentistry, dental hygiene, and dental laboratory technology. By teaching students in all aspects of dentistry, the school’s level of training has resulted in a national reputation for outstanding clinical education.
Edmund Engler Jeansonne,
DDS (1966-1974) ± & (1974-1976) ±
Allen Anthony Copping,
Jack Henry Rayson,
DDS, MA (1976-1993) ±
Eric Jeffrey Hovland,
DDS, MEd, MBA (1993 to 2008)
Henry Alan Gremillion,
DDS, MAGD (2008 to 2020)
Robert M. Laughlin,
DMD (2020 to 2022)
PhD (2022 to Present)