Dental School to Cut About 20 Percent from State-Funded Budget

By Lisa Cisneros

John Featherstone

Dean John Featherstone, MSc, PhD, kept his sense of humor despite delivering grim news recently about the impact of the state financial crisis on the UCSF School of Dentistry.

Showing a slide of Mount Everest at sunset during a town hall meeting on Aug. 23, Featherstone likened navigating the highest mountain on Earth to tackling the budget challenges facing the UC system and the state of California.

“It’s a bit like where we are in California in terms of the budget,” said Featherstone, who was appointed dean in September 2008. “We don’t have to climb over it we just have to figure out a way around it.”

Featherstone acknowledged that dental school employees attending the town hall meeting may have already “suffered from the solutions” taken to date in response to the budget shortfall. “Some of you have seen that your friends are no longer with us—at least in terms of employment.”

So far, the school has laid off 17.5 staff at full-time equivalent (FTE) positions and 32 faculty appointments were either not renewed or reduced (totaling 8.1 FTE) over fiscal years 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 combined, according to Susan Schultz, the school’s interim associate dean for administration and finance.

Downsizing continues throughout the University. For the entire UCSF campus, the permanent cut in 2009-2010 funding totals $24.7 million, plus a temporary cut of $23.3 million – meaning the total loss in state funding for UCSF is $48 million, Featherstone said. He noted that these numbers are still not final.

Total state funding to the School of Dentistry in fiscal year 2009-2010 would normally have totaled $13,774,000, but it is projected that reductions from the state-funded budget will be about 20 percent or $2.6 million, leaving just over $11 million in reality, Featherstone explained. That hurts since about 40 percent of the budget for educational programs within the school is supported by state funds.

The furlough/salary reduction plan is expected to offset $1.4 million for the dental school, he said. UCSF employees affected by the furlough plan will see their paychecks reduced up to 10 percent, depending on income level, beginning October 1.

Bright Side

On the positive side, Featherstone said that the dental school is making critical investments in its buildings and equipment in an effort to meet the educational and clinical needs of the future and is improving administrative operations, among the goals he set when he was named interim dean in September 2007.

He explained that in the UC system, capital expenditures are often completely separate from the operating budget and must be made to ensure the quality of clinical and educational programs. Areas targeted for major upgrades include:

  • Conversion from film to digital radiography imaging equipment in all dental clinics at Parnassus Avenue and Buchanan Street. The total cost will be about $900,000 and the conversion is more than 75 percent complete.
  • Renovation and upgrade of the pre-clinical simulation laboratory, a $2 million project that is funded almost entirely from donations. This project is scheduled for completion in late October 2009.
  • Renovation of the first-floor lobby and clinic reception area and the addition of two new pediatric dentistry operatories for special purposes. Slated to begin in December 2009, this $1 million project will be funded mostly from the Chancellor’s recruitment package for the new dean, plus a $250,000 donation for the pediatric dentistry facility. This project is scheduled to be completed in April 2010.

In other good news, Featherstone commended the extraordinary efforts that have been made in the predoctoral clinics to increase the educational experience for students, while at the same time increasing revenue. These efforts by faculty, staff and students have produced a 10 percent increase in patient procedures in fiscal year 2008-2009 compared to the previous year, he said.

In closing, Featherstone said he hoped that the financial challenges facing UCSF and the school will have a “minimal impact” on students. “That’s my hope and that of senior leadership. That’s really what we’re here for.”

Related Links:

UCSF names Featherstone as new dean of School of Dentistry
News Services, October 8, 2008

Featherstone Plans for Changes as Appointed School of Dentistry Dean
UCSF Today, September 29, 2008

UCSF School of Dentistry