EL PASO, Texas -- The first new dental school in Texas in 50 years took a major step forward on Tuesday.
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso broke ground on a new oral health clinic that will be located in south-central El Paso along Rick Francis Street.
It will be part of the new Hunt School of Dental Medicine, which is expected to welcome its first students in 2021.
The dental school’s main building has been under construction for more than a year.
Texas has three other dental schools, with the closest one being in San Antonio. But the Texas Tech dental school is the first new dental school to be established by the state Legislature in 50 years.
“Having a dental school here -- providing trained professionals in an area that is very underserved with professionals, that would be El Paso and Western Texas in general -- is a great thing for our community,” said Dr. Rick Black, the dean of the dental school.
The dental clinic will provide students at the Hunt dental school with clinical experience under the close supervision of the faculty. The clinic will also provide increased access to health care in the community by offering reduced-cost care to the public.
“El Paso is underserved,” Black said. “The national average is probably one dentist for every 2,800 people. In El Paso, it is one dentist for every 5,200 people. Our dentists here come in and work from other places, work in El Paso and leave.”
“We want to develop highly skilled professionals who are also culturally competent and understand the needs of El Paso,” Black continued.
When complete, the clinic will be 38,000 square feet with 130 treatment chairs. It is slated to open in 2021, the first year of the new school.