Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in El Paso announced it expects to open the first dental medicine school in West Texas thanks to a $25 million gift from the Woody and Gayle Hunt Family Foundation.
The Woody L. Hunt School of Dental Medicine is expected to open in the Fall of 2020.
"It's been nearly 50 years since the last dental school opened in the state of Texas and two of them are over a hundred years old," said Richard Lange, the president and dean of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in El Paso. "This will be the first one ever in West Texas."
The Upper Rio Grande Region, where El Paso is located, has only 20 dentists per 100,000 residents, according to a 2014 study cited by Lange. By comparison, the entire state of Texas averages 36 dentists per 100,000 residents.
"We're short by about 150 dentists in our area alone," Lange said. "In addition to that, more than a third of the dentists in the state of Texas are at or near retirement."
Lange said the school will focus on attracting and graduating El Paso students with the hope they will open a dental practice in the Sun City upon graduation.