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Dental clinic in South Dallas named in honor of Texas’ first Black dentist

The Dr. M.C. Cooper Dental Clinic is slated to open in April, and no patients will be denied care due to inability to pay
Portrait of Dr. M.C. Cooper

Prominent Dallas civic leaders and elected Texas officials gathered with Texas A&M University System leadership Friday to dedicate the Dr. M.C. Cooper Dental Clinic in South Dallas. The clinic, slated to open in April, will be staffed by Texas A&M College of Dentistry graduate, dental and dental hygiene students under the supervision of licensed dental faculty.

“We are excited to have a presence in this community,” said Lawrence Wolinsky, PhD, DMD, dean of the College of Dentistry. “We know that access to oral health care has been out of reach for many in this area. The opening of the Dr. M.C. Cooper Dental Clinic brings us one step closer to closing the oral health care gap that exists among the most vulnerable members of our community.”

At the building dedication ceremony, Wolinsky was joined by Texas A&M University System Regent Bill Mahomes, A&M System Chancellor John Sharp, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, State Sen. Royce West, State Rep. Jasmine Crockett, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, Dallas County Commissioner and dentist Elba Garcia, Frazier Revitalization President and Chief Executive Officer Dorothy Hopkins, members of the Cooper family, and fourth-year dental student Paris Webb, who is also class president.

“Whether it’s undergraduates in College Station or advanced dental students in Dallas, Aggies will always be there to help our fellow Texans,” Chancellor John Sharp said. “Dr. Cooper’s legacy continues to thrive within our dental students. I know they would have made him proud.”

The building’s namesake, Dr. Marcellus Clayton Cooper, was the first Black dentist in Texas. Born into slavery in 1862, Cooper went on after slavery ended 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, then 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.

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

The clinic—at 4570 Scyene Road, across from Parkland’s Hatcher Station Health Center—will offer comprehensive care, treatment and oral health education to seniors, adults and children in the underserved community. The clinic was built with funds from a $2.4 million anonymous donation, along with an additional $2 million endowment that will help pay for operating expenses. Equipment was provided by the Delta Dental Foundation through a $780,000 donation.

The state-of-the-art clinic features a spacious waiting room, eight operatories, digital X-ray capabilities, a consultation room and a classroom/conference room in a 4,300-square-foot space. Patients will be seen by appointment only. Insurance will be billed for patients who have private insurance, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Plan or third-party coverage. No patients will be denied care due to an inability to pay.

The College of Dentistry will work with Frazier Revitalization, Parkland Health & Hospital System, the City of Dallas and the Dallas Independent School District to develop and coordinate services. Outreach will include mentoring high school students interested in dental health care careers.

This story originally appeared in Dentistry Insider

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