Hunt School of Dental Medicine dean honored for community service and leadership
Richard Black, D.D.S., M.S., founding dean of the Hunt School of Dental Medicine, was recently named Texas Academy of General Dentistry’s Texas Dentist of the Year.
“I’m honored and humbled,” Dr. Black said. “In a room full of outstanding nominees, I was the last person I thought would win.” The award was announced during the academy’s Lone Star Dental Conference, held Sept. 17-18 in Austin.
A native El Pasoan, Dr. Black has served the community for over 40 years, both as a dentist and leader in local and national organizations. His career has brightened the smiles of countless residents in the Sun City and brought impactful change to a region that has long been medically underserved.
That change continued when he was asked to help establish the Hunt School of Dental Medicine, the first dental school in Texas in over 50 years.
” I have had the opportunity to serve at the local, state and national level in organized dentistry,” Dr. Black said. ” That experience helped me reach out to those people who could help us in our efforts to get the school started.”
His volunteer efforts include serving as a national trustee for the 15th district (Texas) of the American Dental Association and previously serving as president of the El Paso Dental Society and Texas Dental Association; chair of the TDA’s Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Council through four sessions of the Texas Legislature and as president of the El Paso Sun Bowl Association and American Heart Association in El Paso.
His efforts paid off, and his leadership was instrumental in and will continue impacting generations of El Pasoans through access to higher education and oral health care in the Borderland.
“We had to accomplish four things to make sure we were successful,” Dr. Black said. “We had to get accreditation, build cutting-edge facilities, hire faculty, and we had to find an exceptional inaugural class. Finding the right class was important because they will set the tone for the future.”
Dr. Black said the school’s uniqueness was supported by the strong curriculum at the Foster School of Medicine, further enhanced by the Hunt School of Dental Medicine’s one-of-a-kind community immersion course that encourages interprofessional collaboration with medical students from the Foster School of Medicine.
” I have to give the entire Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso credit, as well as Dr. Richard Lange’s leadership,” he said. ” We were able to open on time because of the support of two important local foundations.”
A first for any dental school in the nation, Hunt School of Dental Medicine students begin clinical training and patient interaction during their first semester. It’s also the first and only dental school in the nation that requires Spanish-language courses. Sixty percent of the school’s students consider themselves bilingual or multilingual, helping to reduce language barriers during patient care.
For Dr. Black, students will fulfill the school’s mission of caring for people in the region and beyond.
“We hope that after we train these outstanding professional health care partners, they will go out and become champions of their own community wherever they go,” he said.
The Hunt School of Dental Medicine is the first dental school on the U.S.-Mexico border, and the only in El Paso and West Texas. It is one of few Hispanic-Serving dental schools in the nation, with 32.5% of its inaugural class identifying as Hispanic.
In the past 10 years, only 22 out of 2,390 Texas dental school graduates have chosen to practice in West Texas. Because most graduating dentists establish their practices in proximity to their dental schools, the Hunt School of Dental Medicine will help alleviate the severe shortage of dentists in the Paso del Norte region.