Representatives of Marathon Petroleum’s El Paso refinery announced a $30,000 gift to the Hunt School of Dental Medicine during the school’s Meet the Class Event on Tuesday, June 29. The event introduced the inaugural class of 40 to the new dental school and El Paso community. The generous gift from the Marathon Petroleum Foundation will establish a Dental Patient Fund at the Texas Tech Dental Oral Health Clinic to assist low-income and uninsured patients with the cost of dental services.
“We are proud to support the communities where we live and work,” said El Paso Refinery General Manager C.P. Patsatzis. “Community investment is an integral part of our collaboration with community stakeholders to positively impact our region. Establishing a dental clinic in the heart of the neighborhood where our refinery is located is an opportunity we are excited to support.”
The Marathon Petroleum Foundation focuses its investments on core areas where it can make a positive, measurable impact, including science, technology and STEM education. The investment in the Dental Patient Fund will provide access for residents in the Borderland, especially families in the 79905 ZIP code who might not otherwise have the resources for quality dental care.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has designated El Paso as a Dental Health Professional Shortage Area. El Paso has only one dentist for every 4,840 residents, compared to the state average of one dentist for every 2,900 residents. More than 50 West Texas counties have no dentist at all. The clinic will have dentists from the community, including pediatric dentists, who will create a dental home for patients by serving as their primary oral health provider.
Services will include monthly community clinic days for initials exams with X-rays and treatment plans, including cleanings, fillings and emergency treatment. The fund will help meet the cost of care for patients, enabling them to address oral health early and receive proper treatment before conditions worsen and become costlier.
Beginning in late fall 2021, the inaugural class of dental students will begin treating patients – by delivering direct restorations or more – in the 38,000 square-foot public clinic under the supervision of faculty. The clinic expects over 60,000 patient encounters annually once the school’s first four classes have begun their training.
The state-of-the-art facility is a first for West Texas and Southern New Mexico and is expected to be the top dental-care destination for the region. 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 145 individual student-learning operatories.
“With 42% of the inaugural class hailing from West Texas and border regions in Texas, our anticipation is dental students will remain in the area after graduation to serve in the communities that have supported them through their health care journey,” said Richard C. Black, D.D.S., M.S., dean of the Hunt School of Dental Medicine. “Of the class, 60% consider themselves bilingual or multilingual. This will also aid our students in preparing to be culturally competent providers.”
Dr. Black shared these insights with students, faculty and area dentists during the event. Students were able to meet local dentists to network and share experiences. Dennis Care, D.D.S. attended the event and spoke with students about his journey through dental school.
“I’m thrilled to not only start my journey in dental medicine, but to be a part of the inaugural class at the Hunt School of Dental Medicine,” said Steven Venzor, inaugural student and native El Pasoan. “I’ve had the chance to speak with Dr. Care, a local dentist and donor, who expressed his excitement for all the opportunities that the school’s clinic will make possible for our community. The opportunity to practice in a state-of-the-art facility is nothing less than amazing. I cannot wait to begin practicing care under the supervision of some of El Paso’s best dental professionals.
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 July 2021 and 60 students per year subsequently.
Check out our photos from the event: