BC Shares Progress on New Dental School
In an effort to keep the community informed about the progress of the development of its new dental school, Bluefield College hosted a dinner information session, Monday, January 28, featuring a presentation and remarks from not only dental school organizers, but also state and local legislators and who support the project.
January 31, 2013
U.S. Congressman Morgan Griffith (far right) joins other supporters and organizers in expressing support for a new dental school project, proposed by Bluefield College and Tazewell County.
An architectural sketch of the proposed dental school.
If attendance for the information session is any indication of the interest in the proposed dental school, then the cooperative venture unveiled this past fall with Tazewell County appears to be one of the more appealing developments in the region as nearly 100 guests took part in the BC dinner gathering, including U.S. Congressman Morgan Griffith, Executive Director of the Virginia Dental Association Terry Dickinson, and dozens of dentists from the region.
“This is a great turnout,” said BC President David Olive about the attendance for the information session. “I think it speaks very well of the interest and enthusiasm for this dental program. The dentists really want to know about the curriculum and what the clinicals will be like.”
Along with the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors and the Tazewell County Industrial Development Authority, the College announced plans this past September to create a new dental school inside the County’s Bluestone Regional Business and Technology Center, under construction and development just outside Bluefield, Virginia, on U.S. Route 460. At that time, organizers spoke about how the new dental school would grow the College, while also improving dental care in southwest Virginia. During this most recent information session, the planners shared even more about the benefits.
“The County is going to be a major player in this economic development project,” said County Administrator Jim Spencer. “The estimated cost of constructing and equipping the building at the Bluestone is $13 million, but the return on our investment is better health care, job creation, and an anchor tenant in the Bluestone.”
The dental school, itself, will generate about 50 direct jobs, Spencer said, not to mention the ancillary business and revenue generated as a result of dental students living and investing in Tazewell County. As the anchor of the Bluestone, the new school, he added, will be a “tremendous draw” for other industries to bring their business to the complex. In fact, once fully developed, the Bluestone will provide 680 acres of mixed used development, including 180 acres for business. All this activity, Congressman Griffith said, will only lead to even more growth for the County.
“It’s just human nature,” said Griffith. “You’re more likely to locate in a community where you see things happening and that things are moving forward, rather than a community where things tend to be stagnant.”
Dr. Olive said the new dental school will recruit qualified applicants primarily from the Appalachian region with a mission to have these students return to their communities to provide dental care. Plans are to recruit and enroll about 45-50 students in the first class by the fall of 2015, contingent on additional fundraising and pre-approval by national and regional accrediting agencies, including the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV), the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). By the time the College has recruited four classes (fall 2018), about 180-200 students will be enrolled in the dental school.
Dr. Karen West, a project consultant and dean of the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, spoke about the accreditation process, the curriculum for the dental school, and the strong service to the community component that will be an integral part of the education.
“Students will complete not only a rigorous academic curriculum,” said Dr. West, “but also strong clinical training that will give them the foundational knowledge and experience they need to graduate as a competent dental professional who is committed to an ethical practice of dentistry with a service orientation of providing for others.”
The information dinner also included a Q&A session during which time guests asked questions and made comments about tuition, financial aid, clinical training, and market saturation, among other topics. Virginia Senator Phillip Puckett and Delegate James Morefield, who could not attend the dinner, sent statements expressing support for the venture. Drew Lumpkin, a representative of U.S. Senator Mark Warner, read a letter conveying the senator’s support.
“The urgent need for doctors and dentists is both a health and an economic problem in this region,” Warner said in his letter. “I commend the partnership for addressing the shortage of dental professionals in the area, as well as providing access to quality oral health care.”