University of Pikeville says it will build Kentucky’s third dental school with a $25 million gift from an anonymous donor

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The University of Pikeville plans to create Kentucky’s third dental school with a $25 million gift from an anonymous donor’s family foundation, the largest in the school’s 133-year history.

UPike President Burton Webb announced the gift last Saturday during the private university’s health-professions commencement.

“The foresight of a generous family giving to a university to establish a dental school is special,” Webb said. “This is another example of challenges being met and solved right here by those who call this area home. It’s also incredible that the university, this family and now a dental school will each have their roots right here in these mountains. It’s a great day to be a Bear!” The university’s mascot is a bear.
Webb told the Appalachian News-Express of Pikeville that the proposed school would go through an accreditation process, similar to that for its Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine and Kentucky College of Optometry, which will determine the project’s timeline and size.

“Sometime before we started the optometry college, the university had done a feasibility study on the need for more dentists in Appalachia,” Webb told the newspaper. “At the behest of the family foundation we refreshed that study and it showed continued need. The gift is generous and we are deeply grateful.”

Kentucky’s dental colleges are at the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville. Pikeville is the seat of Pike County, Kentucky’s easternmost, and is nearer to Charleston, W.Va. That state has one dental school, at West Virginia University in Morgantown, and Virginia has one, at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn., just south of Cumberland Gap and Kentucky’s southeast corner, is scheduled to open a dental school this fall.

Terry Dotson, chair of UPike’s Board of Trustees, said in a news release, “The founding of a dental program in these mountains will lead to better healthcare outcomes for a historically medically underserved population. This institution, its students, faculty and staff are a driving force for health education in the commonwealth. The dental school will complete the circle of medical services for the region and the immediate area. The economic impact with the addition of more professional students will grow businesses throughout the entire community and the region. This will be a project that will take the time and talents of many partners locally and statewide.”

Vice President for Advancement and Alumni Relations David Hutchens said the anonymous donor “has a deep love for Appalachia and a passion for improving healthcare in our region. Their generosity will reverberate for generations, impacting not only the graduates of the program but also profoundly benefitting the lives of the countless patients they will serve for generations to come. This is a transformative gift, an act of deep love and devotion for this region. We are humbled by this generosity, thrilled to have this opportunity and ecstatic about this vision.”

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