Northeast Mo. may get new dental school

A.T. Still University (ATSU) of Health Sciences has been asked by three groups based in Southern California, Central Florida, and Missouri to consider bringing its dentistry program to those regions, and ATSU is actively exploring these options, including the possibility of opening a dental school in Kirksville, MO, the university announced.

ATSU expects a formal feasibility study to be completed before the next board of trustees meeting in February 2011, according to ATSU President Jack Magruder. The feasibility study 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.

"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," Magruder said.

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 and Oral Health (ASDOH) located in Mesa, AZ, is a national leader in placing graduates in underserved areas, the university said, and this is the model ATSU will apply in Kirksville if the project moves forward.

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, 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."

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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