BC-Tazewell County Form Dental School
Bluefield College in Bluefield, Virginia, in partnership with the Tazewell County (VA) Board of Supervisors and the County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) unveiled a plan of historic significance for higher education and economic development in southwest Virginia during a ceremony, Friday, September 14.

BC-Tazewell County Form Dental School

By Chris Shoemaker | September 14, 2012 | RSS

View more photos from this historic day for Bluefield College and Tazewell County on BC's Facebook page.


Tazewell County Board of Supervisors Chair Mike Hymes announces the County's plans to partner with Bluefield College to launch a new dental school at the site of the Bluestone business and technology center.




Tazewell County Administrator Jim Spencer shows the proposed site of the new dental school inside the 680 acres of land that makes of The Bluestone, a regional business and technology park designed for residents to work, live, learn and play.



Tazewell County Industrial Development Authority Chair Doyle Rasnick recognizes members of the IDA who helped envision The Bluestone and its first occupant, the dental school.



Bluefield College President David Olive shares how his faculty and staff will help address the shortage of dental care professionals in southwest Virginia and Central Appalachia through the new dental school.



The partners -- (from left) Bluefield College, Tazewell County Board of Supervisors, and the Tazewell County Industrial Development Authority -- sign the offical memorandum of understanding.



President David Olive (left), County Board Chair Mike Hymes (center), and County IDA Chair Doyle Rasnick make history with the creation of Central Appalachia's third dental school.



View more photos from this historic day for Bluefield College and Tazewell County on BC's Facebook page.



Tazewell County Board of Supervisors

Mike Hymes, chair

John Absher

Charlie Stacy

Seth White


Tazewell County Industrial Development Authority

Doyle Rasnick, chair

Darrell Addison

Maggie Asbury

Curtis Breeding

Curtis Gillespie

Kyle Hurt

Monte Rife


Bluefield College Board of Trustees

Dr. David L. Bailey, Jr., chair

Rebecca Easley Beckett

Dr. Thomas M. Brewster, secretary

Rev. David W. Dockery

Dr. Janelle B. Duremdes

Dr. Michael R. DuVal

F. Tyler Easley

Dr. T. Keith Edwards

Rev. William M. Hartsfield

Robert A. Houck

Ronald Hypes

Estelle “Cookie” Johnson

Julie Hull Johnson, immediate past chair

James Y. Justice

Sidney Lanier, Jr.

Margaret Newcomb Leonard

Rev. Jack A. Marcom, Jr.

Thomas E. “Tem” Marshall, IV

Camden J. McLaughlin

Dr. Assaad Mounzer

Dr. Pearl N. Moyers-Dean

Richard F. Norman

Sarah Jolly Reid

Kenneth R. Russell, Jr.

Susan McDougle Tussey

William S. Winfrey, II, vice chair



In front of a crowd of leaders and dignitaries from both the state and local level, Tazewell County officials and Bluefield College president Dr. David Olive announced their collaborative plans to build and open a dental school at the County’s new regional business and technology center known as The Bluestone.


To be officially named at a later date, the new dental school, according to BC and County officials, is designed to address the growing shortage of dentists and dental care professionals in southwest Virginia and Central Appalachia.


“Dentists and professional dental care are limited in Central Appalachia, but this new dental school will address that problem,” said Dr. Olive, “and begin to fill our understaffed clinics with the personnel needed to provide rural residents with sufficient oral care.”


In addition to offering the doctor of dental medicine (DMD) degree, the dental school will have the potential to offer programs in dental hygiene and dental therapy for students interested in other oral care disciplines. These programs, said County administrator Jim Spencer, will not only address the shortage of dental professionals in Central Appalachia, but also improves access to quality oral care.


“Through partnerships with local and regional clinics, our hope is to provide sliding scale dental care for uninsured low income citizens,” said Spencer. “It’s heartbreaking to see so many people suffer from oral problems and associated ailments and not be able to get the help they need. This new school and its supportive programs in dental care and nursing will help address that longstanding problem in our region.”


According to planners, 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 and health care. Toward that end, the dental school will rely on partnerships with rural outreach clinics to implement a block scheduling system for students that will keep overhead and tuition as low as possible. The idea is that graduates who incur less debt for their degree can afford to pursue primary care practices in Central Appalachia instead of higher-paying specialties in urban areas.


“We don’t want to educate and export our graduates to urban areas,” said Dr. Olive. “We want them to stay at home to provide quality care to communities that are losing dentists and to mentor future dental students.”


Students in the program will also participate in rigorous community service projects designed to inform and educate public school students about tooth decay, obesity, diabetes, hygiene, nutrition, and exercise so that future generations of Appalachian residents can help break the cycle of poor health outcomes in their communities.


“The Tazewell County Industrial Development Authority has a proven track record of cooperation with Bluefield College as evidenced by our partnership to allow the College use of the former Pocahontas High School building,” said IDA chair Doyle Rasnick. “This new dental school is just another great example of the ways in which the County is working with the College to advance this region and to improve the lives of the residents of southwest Virginia.”


In addition, the economic impact of the dental school, the County said, will include hundreds of new direct and indirect jobs and millions of dollars annually as a result of an increased demand for housing and services and the creation of ancillary businesses. In fact, once fully developed, The Bluestone will provide 680 acres of mixed used development. Of the 680 acres, 180 acres are envisioned for business development.


Located alongside U.S. Route 460 between Bluefield, Virginia, and Tazewell, Virginia, at the gateway of Virginia’s e-Region and part of the Virginia Enterprise Zone, The Bluestone is an urban development in a rural setting where you can work, live, play, and learn. In addition to being the first development for The Bluestone, the dental school will be just the third of its kind in the four states that represent Central Appalachia.


“We are very excited about our agreement with Bluefield College to develop a dental school in Tazewell County,” said Mike Hymes, chair of the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors. “National studies indicate that jobs in healthcare will be one of the fastest growing areas in the future. The economic impact of this school will be significant and will provide employment diversification for our area. Establishing a dental school will allow Tazewell County to participate in growing good paying jobs while providing affordable healthcare service to area residents.”


Plans are to recruit and enroll the school’s first students by the fall of 2016, 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).


Made possible by county, state and regional partners and a variety of funding sources, the dental school venture between Bluefield College, the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors, and the Tazewell County IDA comes just a year after the College launched a new nursing program to provide RN-to-BSN degrees for local health care professionals and to address the region’s shortage of registered nurses with four-year college degrees.


A private Christian college founded in southwest Virginia in 1922, Bluefield College also just recently unveiled a new special education major in its nationally recognized Teacher Education Program and revived its intercollegiate football program after a 71-year hiatus.


“In 1922, Bluefield area business leaders established Bluefield College to serve the higher education needs of this region,” said Dr. David Bailey, Jr., chair of the BC Board of Trustees. “Now, some 90 years later, Tazewell County leaders and Bluefield College are responding to yet another critical need, a need for more dentists. I am excited to be involved in this partnership, an historic venture in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”


For more information about the College or the proposed dental school, visit the BC web site at www.bluefield.edu, or call 800-872-0176. To explore the new Bluestone regional business and technology center, visit www.thebluestone.org.




Media Contact

Chris Shoemaker, Director of Marketing and Public Relations