A.T. Still University to Open School of Dentistry

The A.T. Still University Board of Trustees recently approved a $26 million bond issue that will create a dental school on its Kirksville campus.  Here's how university officials and healthcare chief executives hope this new school will improve the state’s current healthcare situation.

By Ryan Schmidt (Columbia, Mo.)

A.T. Still University president Dr. Jack Magruder says there is a tremendous need for dentists in Missouri.

“The state of Missouri is 49<sup>th</sup> in the nation in visits of children to dentists, 48<sup>th</sup> in the nation of visits of adults to dentists," Magruder said.  "Six counties in Missouri with no dentists at all.  I mean it’s just pathetic.”

University spokesperson Dr. Heinz Woehlk says the university met with 21 community health center CEOs from across the state who wanted a dental school in Kirksville.  He said Kirksville doesn’t have the right kind of patients that will allow the school to gain accreditation, but he has a solution.

“The thing to do is to educate our students the first two years in Kirksville, and then have them do rotations in community health centers, one or more, we haven’t figured out that part of it yet, in order to see the right mix of patients with the right mix of procedures that they need to learn,” said Woehlk.

Woehlk said this school will be a stand-alone school, based on ATSU’s Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health in Mesa, Arizona.  He said the Kirksville school will have a similar curriculum, but it will tailor the program to address the needs of underserved patients in Missouri.  Magruder said the new addition will not only benefit northeast Missouri, but also the rest of the state.

“We’ll be having a presence in St. Louis, and we’ll be having a presence in several other communities where the community health centers exist.  And everybody’ll win on this because we’re going to create some healthcare professionals that’ll really serve people in need,” he said.

Magruder said the school will only accept 40 students when the school opens in fall 2013.