Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on June 15 signed a $250.7 billion, two-year state budget approved by the Texas Legislature. The budget includes an appropriation of $20 million to establish the Woody L. Hunt School of Dental Medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso.
“The funding is a major milestone in the development of the Hunt School of Dental Medicine,” said Richard Black, D.D.S., M.S., dean of the Hunt School of Dental Medicine. “This investment and support from the Texas Legislature and governor sends a strong message to our accrediting bodies that the state supports our new school and its critical mission. We also cannot thank our local El Paso legislative team enough for their efforts in garnering this appropriation.”
The Hunt School of Dental Medicine, expected to welcome its first class of students in 2021, will be the first in Texas in over 50 years and the very first at a health sciences center based on the U.S.-Mexico border.
El Paso is designated as a Dental Health Professional Shortage Area by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. El Paso County has only one dentist for every 4,817 residents, compared to a national average of one dentist for every 1,639 residents, according to data from the Texas Health and Human Services and the American Dental Association.
The addition of the Hunt School of Dental Medicine to the TTUHSC El Paso campus will help reverse this trend and put El Pasoans and other West Texas residents on a track to better oral health. One great benefit to the community will be the dental clinic that will accompany the school. The 38,000-square-foot clinic, equipped with 130 treatment chairs, will be located on campus, where students, under faculty supervision, will provide reduced-cost dental care.
The vision of a dental school for the region became a reality in 2016 when businessman Woody L. Hunt and his wife Gayle gifted $25 million to TTUHSC El Paso through the Hunt Family Foundation to establish the school. That gift was soon followed by a $6 million grant from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation to fund the dental school’s curriculum.
“Oral health is an important part of overall health,” Woody L. Hunt said. “But for too long, West Texas hasn’t had enough dentists to serve the population. Fifty-one West Texas counties have no dentists at all. The new TTUHSC El Paso dental school and its clinic will improve the standard of oral care and build a healthier community.”
The Hunt School of Dental Medicine will be housed in the five-story Medical Sciences Building II, now under construction on the TTUHSC El Paso campus.
“The Paso del Norte Health Foundation is grateful to Governor Abbott and the state legislature for their support of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso’s Woody L. Hunt School of Dental Medicine,” said Tracy Yellen, CEO of the Paso del Norte Community Foundation. “We are proud to work with the leadership of Texas Tech to bring a new dental school to El Paso, expand medical education and increase the number of health care providers in our region. We look forward to welcoming the first dental school class in 2021.”