- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 10, 2016

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - With Kansas facing a shortage of dentists, the state should consider establishing its own school of dentistry, with the most likely site at the University of Kansas Medical Center, the state Board of Regents was told.

However, the regents and the Kansas chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said after the presentation of an oral health care task force report Tuesday at the regents meeting that they have not considered the idea, The Lawrence Journal-World reported (https://bit.ly/2bfyuhf ).

Since 1964, Kansas has had a reciprocal agreement with Missouri to allow Kansas residents to pay in-state tuition to study optometry and dentistry at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Regent Daniel Thomas, a dentist from Overland Park who led the task force comprised of lawmakers and dental health professionals, said Tuesday Kansas isn’t getting what it needs from that agreement. He said Kansas has trained far more architects from Missouri than Missouri-Kansas City has trained dentists from Kansas. Few of those dentists practice in Kansas outside the Kansas City metropolitan area, he said. That reciprocal agreement was renewed without changes on June 30.

“We’re underserved, and a significant amount of our workforce is going to be retiring in the next several years, and we don’t have people in the pipeline to backfill that,” said Dr. Doug Girod, executive vice chancellor of the medical school.

A dentistry program authorized at Wichita State University in 2009 has graduated only 30 people in seven years and only six of them stayed in Kansas, Thomas said.

Thomas and Girod said the state should first establish reciprocal agreements with dental schools in Nebraska, Colorado, Iowa, Oklahoma and other nearby states and eventually establish its own dental school, with an emphasis on recruiting Kansas students.

The University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas, would be the most feasible site because it already offers basic medical training required in dentistry and space that could be used as a dental school.

Girod said the university could establish a four-year program for about 60 students per year. The estimated start-up costs would be about $43 million and, if tuition was comparable to other schools, the state would need to allocate another $6.5 million per year.

Regents Chairwoman Zoe Newton of Wichita said Tuesday was the first time she had heard the proposal and the regents haven’t talked about it. The board may continue discussions for months before deciding whether to include the proposal in a future package of requests for the Kansas Legislature.

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Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, https://www.ljworld.com

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