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iConnect News

ATSU conducts feasibility study for dental school in Northeast Missouri

September 28, 2010

Local economy estimated to benefit by millions annually KIRKSVILLE, Mo. – A.T. Still University of Health Sciences has been asked by three groups based in Southern California, Central Florida, and Missouri to consider bringing its very successful and highly innovative dentistry program to those regions. ATSU is actively exploring these options, including the possibility of opening a dental school in Kirksville, Mo. ATSU President Jack Magruder met with the University’s Board of Trustees this weekend and is announcing today a formal feasibility study to be completed before the next board meeting in February 2011. “We believe that a dental school in Kirksville fits our mission and would bring great value to ATSU and to the residents of Northeast Missouri,” President Magruder said. “A dental school in Kirksville would certainly underscore our commitment to social responsibility—giving back to the community and serving rural areas and underserved populations,” added ATSU Senior Vice President-Academic Affairs Douglas Wood, D.O., Ph.D. According to ATSU’s own study, undertaken by Executive Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Craig Phelps, D.O., the shortage of dentists in rural areas is already significant and will become even more pronounced in coming years. ATSU is exploring the dental school option in Kirksville at the request of the Missouri Primary Care Association, a statewide organization of community health centers (CHCs) that principally serve uninsured and underinsured clients. ATSU’s Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ASDOH) located in Mesa, Ariz., is a national leader in placing graduates in underserved areas, and this is the successful model ATSU will apply in Kirksville if the project moves forward. Jack Dillenberg, D.D.S., M.P.H, and dean of ASDOH, said, “We are thrilled with the success of ASDOH and the potential opportunity to bring this community-service-oriented model of dental education to Kirksville and Missouri. The excitement and support generated in the community is very encouraging. I know that there are significant oral health needs in rural Missouri, and we look forward to being a part of the solution.” Andy Grimm, CEO of Northeast Missouri Health Council, Inc., a federally qualified community health center, speaking on behalf of all CHCs in Missouri, said: “Our community health center, and all community health centers in Missouri, pledge our support for the development of a new dental school and will work to develop training opportunities for students. We commend President Magruder and the ATSU Board of Trustees for their vision and leadership in addressing a national crisis in healthcare.” In addition to CHCs in Missouri, ATSU has received letters of support for a new dental school in Kirksville from CHC and primary care associations in the Dakotas, Indiana, Iowa/Nebraska, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin, as well as from the Cherokee Nation Health Services Group. All have pledged to provide training slots to Kirksville’s third- and fourth-year dental students. Monnie Harrison, ATSU vice president for finance and chief financial officer, estimates the economic impact of a Kirksville dental school on the local economy to be in the neighborhood of $98.8 million annually, based upon 70 students in each class. Although ATSU is considering dental schools in other states, President Magruder believes that the Kirksville site “has an excellent likelihood of success and is an opportunity for the University and the community to enter into a mutually beneficial partnership.” The feasibility study being launched will look at such issues as need for the program, likely availability of qualified students, opportunities for suitable clinical experiences for students, cost to initiate and sustain the program, and overall support from local and regional advocates. If the new ATSU dental school in Kirksville becomes a reality, the goal is for the first class to enter in fall 2013.

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