Plans for new dental school at Southern progress

Having more programs of study gives a university competitive edge against others. According to Dr. Paula Carson, Missouri Southern is working to create a partnership to do just that.

Starting in 2010, Southern began talks with University of Missouri Kansas City about beginning a dental school in Joplin. On June 26, the University of Missouri Board of Curator’s voted to move forward with plans to have a satellite dental school in Joplin.

“Throughout the summer, discussions have been ongoing with the UMKC Dental School team, and have focused on two related but importantly distinct aspects,” said Carson, who is Southern’s new provost and vice president of academic affairs. “First, and the area on which we have made the most progress, is understanding the financial model in terms of an equitable exchange,” she added.

As the dental school would share space in the health sciences building, time has been spent looking at the impact this would have on other departments that might have to be relocated. Funding requests have been submitted to cover renovation and relocation costs.

In the next six to 12 months, Southern is giving attention to the academic benefits to Southern students as a result of the partnership.

“Adding the dental school will enrich our learning environment, enhance opportunities for students in existing programs in health sciences and will enable MSSU to contribute to the oral hygiene and health of the citizens of the region,” Carson said.

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

The current proposal for the dental school will allow admission for 15 students in Joplin. The admission process is highly competitive, and not all surrounding states have a public dental school. Local dentists have also shown interest in serving as clinical supervisors in the students’ final two years of school.

The first two years of the program would be distance learning, with instruction coming from Kansas City. During this time, there is additional capacity.

“UMKC School of Dentistry felt Missouri Southern was the best partner since there is an existing partnership for the master of science program in dental hygiene,” Strait said.

UMKC will have a new provost in September, and final negotiations over academic opportunities are on hold until that time.

“I receive calls and emails daily from past graduates, current students and individuals in our region interested in obtaining a doctorate