Increasing access to care for South Dallas communities

February 28th, 2022

Dental students at Cooper clinicTexas A&M College of Dentistry’s Dr. M.C. Cooper Dental Clinic in South Dallas has expanded opportunities for the college’s students to provide local residents with quality dental care.

Within its first year, the clinic currently boasts over 1,800 patient visits, with plans to double that number in 2022 now that the facility is fully operational. This patient-care site was dedicated in March 2021 and opened a month later as the first College of Dentistry-owned clinic located away from the main campus.

The Cooper clinic particularly serves residents of all ages in the Frazier community of South Dallas, but any City of Dallas resident over age 60 can be seen without restrictions, says Dr. Renicke Moss, staff dentist.

“We do not turn away any patients due to inability to pay,” Moss says. “None of our patients pay for any services provided for them at Cooper.”

Currently eight fourth-year dental students serve patients at the clinic each day under the supervision of faculty members in public health sciences who rotate through three community clinic sites. Dr. Esther Tam from the college’s endodontics department supervises root canal procedures by dental students at the clinic on Tuesdays.

Student at Cooper clinic“Patients express heartfelt appreciation literally daily for their increased access to care, as Cooper affords many people their first chance in years (and in some cases, ever) to receive dental treatment,” says Dr. Karl Veasey, public health sciences faculty member, who adds that students love their experiences there. “It is rewarding to see patients referring their family and friends to the clinic.”

Five dental hygiene students rotate through to provide care on Thursdays. Supervising faculty member Leah Spittle says the cases they manage are enhancing their periodontal evaluation skills and nonsurgical periodontal therapies.

“The dental hygiene students are getting some amazing real-world experience,” she says.

Graduate students in Advanced Education in General Dentistry provide care at the facility as well, working closely with Moss for advanced experiences. Moss sees additional patients there daily.

The building’s namesake, Dr. Marcellus Clayton Cooper, was the first Black dentist in Texas. Born into slavery in 1862, Cooper went on to attend grade school in Little Egypt, a freedman’s town in what is now Lake Highlands, a northeast Dallas neighborhood. He later moved to Springfield, Missouri, with his father to complete high school. Cooper returned to Dallas and began working at Sanger Brothers department store, where he saved enough money for dental school and enrolled at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee.

He returned to Dallas in 1896 and opened his dental practice. Despite the tumultuous racial climate at that time, Cooper practiced dentistry for 30 years and invested in the community through humanitarianism and Black business development, including cofounding Dallas’ first Black bank. His final practice location was in the Knights of Pythias Temple in Deep Ellum, less than 4 miles from the new clinic that bears his name. The M.C. Cooper Dental Society, founded in Dallas in 1954, is named in his honor, as is Cooper Street in South Dallas. Cooper died in 1929.

For patient scheduling and questions about the Dr. M.C. Cooper Dental Clinic, call 214-370-7260.

— Carolyn Cox