Dental school moves forward

Missouri Southern’s partnership with KCU medical school isn’t the only association with a Kansas City-based institution Southern will be offering soon.

As reported by The Chart in previous pieces over the last several years, UMKC will also be opening a branch of their dental program in Joplin, but unlike KCU, the dental program will be on Missouri Southern’s campus.

Courses would be held in the Julio S. Leon Health Sciences Center which already contains the dental hygiene program and the W. Robert Corley Dental Hygiene Clinic.

“Adding the dental school will enrich our learning environment, enhance opportunities for students in existing programs in health sciences and will enable Missouri Southern to contribute to the oral hygiene and health of the citizens of the region,” said Dr. Paula Carson, provost and vice president of academic affairs.

Talks to make the partnership proposal a reality have been underway since 2010, according to Tia Strait, dean of health sciences at Missouri Southern.

“This isn’t something we decided yesterday. We have been working on this for years,” Strait said. “Putting any sort of health profession program in place takes time, and it’s expensive.”

According to Strait, the program would have numerous benefits, not only for Southern but also the local area.  

“The state of Missouri ranks 4th lowest, nationally, in terms of percentage of population in Health Profession Shortage Areas,” said Strait. “A program at Missouri Southern will assist in alleviating this shortage especially in the rural parts of the state.” 

In January, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced a $3 million new decision item to help Missouri Southern with the costs associated with dental school. According to Missouri Southern President Dr. Alan Marble, the money would be used to house the program.

 Southern has acquired two-thirds of the nearby Regional Building and also plans to move psychology classes held on the second floor of the Leon Building back to their previous location in the Gene Taylor Education Center, also known as the Child Development Center. Southern hopes these moves will make way for the dental program.  

Last June, UMKC’s governing board, The University of Missouri System Board of Curators, unanimously agreed to ask the Missouri General Assembly for $1.5 million in fiscal year 2017 for an expansion of the UMKC School of Dentistry in Joplin. That amount would cover UMKC’s costs in operating the satellite campus. 

“Joplin is actually becoming the healthcare hub of the area and we’re starting to become the healthcare education part of that,” said Marble. 

The UMKC School of Dentistry is planning to open its Southern campus in fall 2018 with an initial class of 15 students. The School hopes to enroll a total of 60 students after four years. Participants would be enrolled as UMKC students.