Kansas City University’s College of Dental Medicine in Joplin received a $3 million donation from the Joplin Regional Medical School Alliance on Thursday after meeting the criteria for its initial accreditation in February.
The not-for-profit foundation, formed through an alliance of medical and community leaders, has pledged a total of $10 million for the project. The College of Dental Medicine will be accepting applications from students in June and will be selecting its first class of 80 students in December for the 2023 school year.
There will be 320 dental students at full enrollment in the four-year program.
The KCU College of Dental Medicine recently earned initial accreditation status from the Commission on Dental Accreditation, which develops and implements accreditation standards that promote and monitor the continuous quality and improvement of dental education programs.
All counties within a 100-mile radius of Joplin qualify as a Dental Health Professional Shortage Area by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. In Missouri alone, 376 additional dentists are needed to remove the designation. While Oklahoma requires 166, both Arkansas and Kansas need more than 100 to address the shortages. With only three dental schools in the Four-State Area, there is a need to train more dentists to address the shortages, especially in rural counties.
KCU leadership was joined by members of the Joplin Regional Medical School Alliance’s fundraising committee during the check presentation in the Jerry D. Hall Memorial Lobby of KCU in Joplin. Ground was broken on the new dental school in May 2021 on the KCU-Joplin Farber McIntire Campus.
“Thank you to the Joplin Regional Medical School Alliance for the support of this project, but also for the initial project, the College of Osteopathic Medicine, that you’re standing in today,” said Marc B. Hahn, president and CEO of KCU.
“I met with you all nine years ago to talk about the dream of a medical school here in Joplin,” he added. “This dream is now a reality. It’s hard to believe, but now a dental school is also a reality. We appreciate this community’s support for Kansas City University’s vision of improving health care for not just Joplin but for the surrounding community in four different states.”
Rudy Farber, who chairs alliance fundraising, said the foundation has now donated over $8 million total to the KCU College of Dental Medicine following a $5 million donation in June. He said the dental school will do a tremendous amount of good for the health and welfare of the residents in the region.
“We have a little less than $2 million to go, and I can tell you that it’s going to happen,” he said at the presentation.
The fundraising committee were given a sneak peek of a mock operatory with up-to-date equipment that will be featured throughout the new dental school. The operatory, a working space for the dentist, is manufactured by A-dec, a dental office furniture and equipment manufacturer based in Oregon.
“What I think is really wonderful about our curriculum is that in many traditional dental school settings, students don’t enter the clinic and start learning how to take care of patients until their third year, but we’ve designed a curriculum with early educational experiences both in the community and also in our oral health centers, so that students on day one learn what it’s like to be working in an operatory and treating patients from start to finish,” said Erinne Kennedy, director of pre-doctoral education at the College of Dental Medicine.
Kennedy said A-dec worked with them to create solutions for specific challenges that are faced by clinical dentists with equipment in operatories. She added that the operatories were designed with both the student and patient in mind.
“This light arm was designed with feedback from our faculty alongside A-dec, and it now operates to provide more ergonomic function or something that’s better for the student’s body,” she said. “We can now share this resource with clinicians across the country.”
Linda Niessen, founding dean of the KCU College of Dental Medicine, said there will be a total of 92 operatories in the oral health center on the ground floor and level one. Level two of the college will have a simulation laboratory where students will practice on plastic teeth in a mock operatory setting. There will also be a digital design center where students will learn how to create crowns for patients.
After seeing the mock operatory, Farber said the setup and equipment is impressive and an excellent investment for the community.
“It’s going to influence what area dentists do in their offices because the students are going to take some of this information out and say, ‘Back at the school, we’re doing this,’” he said. “It’s sort of like how a rising tide lifts all ships. That’s what is going to happen.”