Arkansas considering state's first dental school
January 22, 2016
Little Rock, Ark
. — The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences voted Jan. 15 to authorize a feasibility study on opening a dental school — the first in the state.
The Academy for Academic Leadership, a consulting group that has conducted similar research, will conduct the feasibility study, which is expected to take up to six months, said UAMS spokesperson Leslie Taylor.
"It will be looking to see if this is the right thing to do or not," she said. "Some states and schools have done this study and have found that it wasn't the right thing."
Ms. Taylor said the idea came after discussions between university leaders and partners in addressing oral health care needs in the state.
The Arkansas State Dental Association welcomed the idea of a dental school possibility opening in the state.
"The ASDA executive council voted unanimously to support the formation of a public College of Dentistry in Arkansas if the governor and legislature decide it is time to do so," said Dr. Dwight D. Duckworth, ASDA president.
Considering that Arkansas does not have a dental school, and residents are have to pay out-of-state tuition, Dr. Duckworth added that an in state college of dentistry would provide "the necessary training for less than it costs to attend regional dental schools."
"To that point, we are hopeful that the state would be able to alleviate some of the tremendous debt our students are shouldering when they finish dental school," he said.
The study, which costs about $50,000 in private donations, will explore the risks, benefits, need and demand for a dental school in the state, and if it's economically practical for the university to pursue.
After the study concludes, the Academy's findings will be presented to a legislative council, which will determine whether to proceed with the plan.
Last summer, the school launched a general practice residency program for dentistry. Ms. Taylor said the school plans to expand the program from two resident dentists to six this year.