The GECU Foundation announced a $323,000 gift to the Hunt School of Dental Medicine in support the Dean’s Excellence Fund and student scholarships during a historic ribbon cutting for the Texas Tech Dental Oral Health Clinic on Tuesday, June 22. The event celebrated the completion of construction of the public clinic, which will serve as the clinical arm of the new dental school.
“GECU’s philosophy is people helping people,” said Crystal Long, president and CEO of GECU. “Our foundation’s commitment to TTUHSC El Paso is a commitment to the health of our entire community. Our aim is to elevate El Paso through education, community programs, and philanthropic giving.”
GECU Foundation’s commitment to the growth of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso campus aims to help the surrounding community thrive, a sentiment espoused by other community partners.
“The entire TTUHSC El Paso campus has transformed the health care landscape in our region,” said Woody L. Hunt, Chairman of the Woody and Gayle Hunt Family Foundation, who spoke at the event. “Having a single campus in El Paso that houses a medical school, biomedical sciences school, nursing school, and now a dental school allows El Paso to be a national leader on healthcare. This institution provides young El Pasoans who want to pursue a career in health care the opportunity to do so here locally, fills tremendous health needs in our unique border community, and provides a boost to our regional economy.”
As part of efforts to improve the accessibility of oral health care in the community, the Hunt School of Dental Medicine will offer reduced-cost dental care in its 38,000 square-foot public Texas Tech Dental Oral Health Clinic. The clinic will have over 60,000 patient encounters annually by 2025 and is expected to be the top dental-care destination, not only for the public, but for faculty, staff, students and their families.
“As the first dental school in Texas in over 50 years, the Hunt School of Dental Medicine will be a change agent for health in the Borderland,” said Richard C. Black, D.D.S., M.S., dean of the Hunt School of Dental Medicine. “In the past, local patients may not have had access to dental care. With 42% of the inaugural class hailing from West Texas and border regions in Texas, we’re focused on our patients having access to the highest quality care in the region, while also preparing students to be culturally competent providers.”
The state-of-the-art facility is a first for West Texas and Southern New Mexico. It includes nine multipurpose suites, two special needs suites, six faculty practice rooms, one CAD/CAM lab, five pediatric suites, five oral surgery suites, and 130 individual student-learning operatories.
“TTUHSC El Paso would not be here today if it weren’t for the support of our community,” said Richard Lange, M.D., M.B.A., president of TTUHSC El Paso. “Continued investments in our students from generous financial institutions like GECU are investments in our community. The Texas Tech Dental Oral Health Clinic will train future dentists in the most advanced setting, preparing our students for a meaningful career in the health care field.”
About the Hunt School of Dental Medicine
Across West Texas, many suffer from poor dental health due to a lack of access to affordable care – in 2017, only 50% of El Paso residents visited a dentist. In El Paso County, there’s only one dentist for every 4,840 residents, compared to the national average of one dentist for every 1,638. Currently, more than 50% of Texas’ general dentists are located in the five most populated counties, hundreds of miles from West Texas.
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. The school will welcome its first class of 40 students in 2021 and 60 students per year subsequently.
Check out our photos from the ribbon cutting event: