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Health Foundation Grants $6 Million to Support Dental School

The Paso del Norte Health Foundation’s board of directors is pleased to announce a $6 million grant to support the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso) Woody L. Hunt School of Dental Medicine (WLHSODM).

The Health Foundation will contribute the $6 million over six years. Funding will support the start-up phase of the school with the opportunity to leverage state funding.

“We are excited to be part of a leadership opportunity to bring a dental school to the region,” said Jose Prieto Jr., M.D., board chair of the Paso del Norte Health Foundation. “Poor dental care has been linked to numerous chronic disorders that can be prevented with education and early detection.”

This multimillion-dollar grant will fund the development of a unique, community-centered curriculum for the WLHSODM — the first dental school on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Unlike traditional rote-based learning, the WLHSODM curriculum will focus on service education, a form of teaching that encourages meaningful community service. The approach results in one-of-a-kind, hands-on experiences that allow students to apply their newfound knowledge and skills to life beyond the classroom, while simultaneously helping the community.

“We believe that the Health Foundation’s commitment to the new dental school will increase the awareness and importance of oral health, support a local supply of future dentists and hygienists, support community dental clinics, provide faculty appointments for local dentists, and contribute to the overall economic growth in the region,” says Tracy J. Yellen, CEO of the Paso del Norte Health Foundation.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Paso del Norte Health Foundation for supporting us in this endeavor,” says TTUHSC El Paso President Richard Lange, M.D., M.B.A. “Our shared mission of improving the health and quality of life for residents in this bi-national region will only strengthen our cause: to bring a dental school to El Paso that will change the face of health care in West Texas.”

Once established, the WLHSODM is expected to create 100 new, highly-skilled local jobs, infusing an additional $5 million into the El Paso economy in labor income.

“Our new school of dental medicine is just as much about giving back to the community as it is about providing top-of-the-line, innovative education to future health professionals,” says Victoria Pineda, TTUHSC El Paso associate vice chancellor. “This unprecedented show of support represents a shared vision of excellence for the border and a dream that all people in our region will one day have access to health care.”

A low-cost dental health clinic also will be established in central El Paso. There, students will train with WLHSODM faculty and provide affordable dental services to one of the city’s most underserved communities. Additional training opportunities will take place at local private practice dentists’ offices, as well as clinic sites for organizations that provide affordable dental services to the poor and uninsured.

The first cohort of 20 future dentists will be admitted in 2020. By 2023, the school is expected to admit its first class of dental hygienists. At full capacity, the WLHSODM will graduate 75 dentists and 60 dental hygienists per year.

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