The local dentist community got its first look at the Hunt School of Dental Medicine and Texas Tech Dental Oral Health Clinic facilities during a Facebook Live broadcast.
Last week, viewers were taken on a virtual tour of the Texas Tech Dental Oral Health Clinic and the Dental Learning Center. The clinic, located on campus off of Rick Francis Street, will serve the public when it opens in the summer of 2021.
The Dental Learning Center, where students will train, is located on the third floor of Medical Sciences Building II, the latest addition to the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso campus and home to the Hunt School of Dental Medicine.
Richard Black, D.D.S., M.S., dean of the Hunt School of Dental Medicine, and Vernon Burke, D.M.D., M.D., of High Desert Oral and Facial Surgery, each provided an update on the progress of the dental school and its state-of-the-art facilities, all which are close to being completed and on schedule to open next year.
“The Dental Learning Center, as well as the simulation laboratory, is 99% finished and ready to welcome students and faculty for state-of-the-art training,” Dr. Black said. “The Oral Health Clinic is on schedule, maybe even ahead of schedule, to open to campus and the public in June. It’s really taking shape and will be ready for the dental equipment to be installed in February.”
As the first dental school on the U.S.-Mexico border and fourth in Texas, the Hunt School of Dental Medicine will welcome its inaugural class in 2021. Students will train in the Dental Learning Center, which will feature 80 stations equipped with high-tech simulation manikins and a fabrication lab for crafting dental appliances using 3D scanners and advanced CAD/CAM machines.
The Texas Tech Dental Oral Health Clinic is a 38,000-square-foot clinic equipped with 130 treatment chairs. It will be the clinical arm of the new Hunt School of Dental Medicine and is expected to be a top dental-care destination for the public, as well as TTUHSC El Paso faculty, staff and their families.
Both facilities will have the most up-to-date technology when the school welcomes its inaugural class next fall. Dr. Black said the school will lease equipment to ensure the Dental Clinic continues to evolve as new technology becomes available in the future. The technology will be representative of the school’s faculty and curriculum.
“I’ve said it many times: We will have the most innovative curriculum and technology in the United States and Canada when we open,” Dr. Black said. “We plan to use symptom-based, case-based teaching. We’re insisting the students learn Spanish, allowing them to bridge language and cultural barriers to deliver the highest quality of oral health care. We’re also requiring they earn credits for a public health certificate, and we’ll be placing students in the clinic to see patients sooner than probably any other school in the nation.”
Dr. Black added that applicants who have interviewed either in person or virtually have been impressed with the school’s facilities, as well as the city of El Paso. The inaugural class will include 40 students, and the applicant pool is made up of candidates from the El Paso region and across the state of Texas. To help with the application process, 35 El Paso community dentists have volunteered to participate in the interviews.
“It’s very exciting to see the dental school coming together for everyone involved in the Friends of the Dental School,” said Dr. Burke. “As community faculty we are happy to support the Hunt School of Dental Medicine and stand ready to help in whatever manner needed. We are especially excited to meet the class of 2025. These students are the future of dentistry for our community and having met them during the interview process, they are an impressive group.”
The Hunt School of Dental Medicine is also in the process of recruiting and hiring faculty. Dr. Black said the school is looking for faculty that are nationally and internationally known and will bring experience in a wide range of fields.
School officials share that it will be the first dental school to open in Texas in over 50 years and the only in West Texas and the Paso del Norte region. In 2017, only 50% of El Paso residents visited a dentist, and in El Paso County, there’s only one dentist for every 4,545 residents, compared to the national average of one dentist for every 1,639.
“TTUHSC El Paso’s mission is dedicated to addressing these disparities by educating the future of health care and providing world-class patient care,” officials added.
“This school is such a gift to this community and this region. It’s so exciting to see the hard work of everyone involved, and it’s almost ready to open. I’m sure this is what it felt like 11 years ago when they opened the Foster School of Medicine,” Dr. Black said. “We could not have done any of this without the support of our foundation partners: the Paso del Norte Health Foundation and the Hunt Family Foundation.”