KIRKSVILLE, Mo. – The Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH) recently approved a Year 2, $1,000,000 grant (effective April 1, 2012) to A.T. Still University (ATSU) to assist with further development of its new and innovative dental school based in Kirksville, Mo. MFH provided an initial Year 1, $500,000 grant award to ATSU to help the University complete its feasibility/planning phase. ATSU plans to open the dental school with its first class of 40 students in the fall of 2013, pending accreditation.

The goal of ATSU’s new Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-MOSDOH) is to educate and produce a new generation of community-minded dentists who will help fill widespread oral healthcare workforce gaps, including practice in Community Health Centers (CHCs) and other safety-net settings to reach underserved patients.\Says Dr. Jack Magruder, ATSU president, “Adding the dental school to our ATSU Kirksville campus will not only enhance interprofessional education in our state, but also generate meaningful oral health outcomes, especially among Missouri’s most vulnerable populations. With this generous, ongoing support from MFH, we are confident that our dental program based in Kirksville—in partnership with Missouri’s CHCs—will be highly successful and will help fulfill the missions of both ATSU and MFH by bringing increased access to oral healthcare to our state’s most vulnerable populations.”

 Missouri has an emergent need for more oral healthcare providers, including dentists, particularly to care for high-risk populations. The state ranks near the bottom, 47th in the nation, in terms of residents with access to a dentist. Approximately 70 dentists are retiring each year in the state, while only about 45-50 are starting new dental practices. In essence, Missouri’s overall supply of dentists is falling, while the state’s population and demand for dentists are rising. ATSU’s intent is to respond to this growing gap in oral healthcare.

Christopher G. Halliday, DDS, MPH, has been selected as inaugural dean of ATSU’s Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health, effective July 1, 2012.  Dr. Halliday is one of the nation’s leading experts in oral/public health; he currently serves as rear admiral, assistant surgeon general, and chief of staff in the Office of the Surgeon General of the United States. Dr. Halliday earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree from Marquette University School of Dentistry and his Master of Public Health (MPH) degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He obtained his BA degree in Liberal Studies from the University of California-Santa Barbara.

Dr. Halliday’s vast professional experiences include serving the underserved in areas as remote as Barrow, AK, for three years, and serving seven years with American Indian populations in New Mexico and Arizona. In several posts in Washington, D.C., he has been a leading advocate for access to dental care and to healthcare in general. He has dedicated his professional life to the underserved, which is an ideal fit with ATSU’s Missouri dental school mission. Dr. Halliday’s exemplary leadership record, philosophical commitment, and unprecedented expertise in the fields of oral/public health will enable ATSU-MOSDOH to reach its full potential.

 The emerging four-year Missouri dental curriculum is being modeled after the highly successful and innovative dental program at ATSU’s Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-ASDOH) in Mesa, Ariz. Using a modified ATSU-ASDOH instructional model, the first two years of the Missouri pre-clinical, interdisciplinary dental school curriculum will be based in a new 61,000-square-foot, $26 million, state-of-the-art educational facility—which is slated for completion in the spring of 2013. The final two clinical education years will be distributed and delivered at collaborating CHC partner sites throughout Missouri and beyond, which sets ATSU’s Missouri dental school model apart. This evidence-based, collaborative educational model is designed to maximize retention of graduating dentists in Missouri CHCs. Successful graduates will earn the DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) degree and a certificate in Public Health, the latter in cooperation with ATSU’s School of Health Management.

Adds President Magruder,“We remain grateful for the tremendous support from MFH to assist in the development of the Kirksville-based ATSU dental school, which has the potential to transform dental education at both the state and national levels.”

Once launched, ATSU-MOSDOH will be one of only two dental schools in Missouri and the only dental school in the Midwest dedicated at a mission level to enhancing oral healthcare for the underserved.

This grant is provided by the Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH), an independent philanthropic foundation dedicated to empowering Missourians to achieve equal access to quality health services. Established in 2000, MFH has provided grant funding and education, and fostered community partnerships to promote health improvement, especially for the uninsured and underserved.