The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences is one step closer to finding out if it wants to develop the state’s first dental college. The Arkansas Legislative Council Review Subcommittee on Tuesday approved a contract studying the viability of the school.
Provost Stephanie Garner said the college should only move forward if the consultant’s report supports it.
“I think this is the time to evaluate this. The amount is less than $50,000 for the first phase and we would not move to another phase if the consultant said it’s not possible,” said Garner.
Garner said Atlanta-based consultants Academy for Academic Leadership has deemed two of its last four studies feasible. The contract would be funded privately by Delta Dental.
The $48,000 feasibility study price tag is down from a $634,000 request that would have funded three phases from the study to accreditation steps. UAMS officials requested the change following some legislative concerns last month when the study was sent from the full ALC back to the review subcommittee.
Garner said the state’s poor oral health is the best reason to look into the viability of the dental school. Arkansas is one of 14 states without a dental college.
“There are as of now less dentists per capita in Arkansas than in any other state,” she said. “We also know there are several counties in Arkansas that do not have a dentist.”
State Senator Joyce Elliott (D-Little Rock) said any development should consider if care will be better distributed in the future. Elliott said currently care is concentrated in pockets to the detriment of rural areas.
“Having a dentist in a community is certainly important to the quality of life that I think we ought to be pursuing instead of assuming things are going to happen automatically. Because they just don’t,” said Sen. Elliott.
Republican State Senator Missy Irvin of Mountain View agreed with Sen. Elliott that any dental college should be geared to serving underserved rural areas. Provost Garner agreed and pointed to one of the two dental schools the Georgia consulting company found feasible in the last three years.
“They have a distributive model where there students in the last year spend 24 weeks out in underserved rural areas of the state. It’s a program they believe increases the number of students willing to move back to that area,” said Garner about East Carolina University in North Carolina.
The revised contract amount could be considered by the Arkansas Legislative Council on Friday.