The Texas Legislature has approved $20 million to establish the Woody L. Hunt School of Dental Medicine (WLHSDM) at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) El Paso as part of its $250.7 billion, two-year state budget, which now awaits Governor Greg Abbott’s signature.
The Hunt School of Dental Medicine, expected to welcome its first class of students in 2021, will be the first new dental school in Texas in more than 50 years and the very first at a health sciences center based on the United States and Mexico border.
“We are very pleased that our state lawmakers recognized the need to close the gaps of dental health disparities in West Texas and support the creation of the Hunt School of Dental Medicine in El Paso,” said TTUHSC El Paso president Richard Lange, MD, MBA.
“I applaud our El Paso legislative delegation for their work in pursuing funding for the school and thank the community for supporting our vision of improved dental healthcare for the Borderland and West Texas,” Lange said.
“We’re going to be asking the community to support this school,” said Richard C. Black, DDS, MS, dean of the dental school. “Whatever they give will come back many times over with the kind of educational institution we’re building here. And as this health sciences center grows, it is going to continue to be a strong economic engine for West Texas.”
El Paso has a 57% shortage of general dentists compared to the national average, the school reports, and is designated a Dental Health Professional Shortage Area by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
In 2016, businessman Woody L. Hunt and his wife Gayle gave $25 million to TTUHSC El Paso to establish the school. That gift was followed by a $6 million grant from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation to fund the school’s curriculum.
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.