In reaction to rumors that the Kansas Board of Regents are making plans to establish a new dental school in Kansas, interim President H. Edward Flentje sent a memo to all faculty outlining his support for Emporia State as the designated site for such a program.
“Emporia State, located where it is, I think, would be an appropriate site for this school,” Flentje said. “Most of the responses I have heard from the faculty have been positive and it is something that will definitely be on the agenda for the new president. That new president will be a key in Emporia State’s push to get the school if it goes through.”
So far, the regents have established an Oral Health Task Force to explore the possibility of a dental school in Kansas, which could potentially be located in Emporia.
In Flentje’s memo he explains that the regents are looking to attract and retain dentists in Kansas. Flentje recently met with Sen. Jeff Longbine, who is a member of the task force, to discuss the work they have done and offer support.
“I do not expect to see the work of the Task Force completed during my interim assignment here at Emporia State,” Flentje said in the memo. “However, if the Task Force does recommend the establishment of a new dental school in Kansas, I believe consideration should be given to Emporia State University as a site for such a school.”
The Oral Health Task Force held their first meeting Nov. 15, to which Longbine was assigned to the committee to study “the feasibility of a dental school” in Kansas.
“We currently don’t have a true dental school in Kansas,” Longbine said. “Our overall goal is to see if we can improve access to dental care. Kansas has a severe shortage of dentists, particularly in rural Kansas. If we have more trained dentists in the state, the hope is that would help all communities, not just the rural communities.”
Comprised of some regents members, dental work experts and legislators, the Oral Health Task Force is hoping to have a recommendation to KBOR by next summer. Longbine said he would like to see Emporia be in the running for a location if KBOR goes through with it.
Flentje said having a dental school in Emporia would also raise the declining enrollment.
“We could also keep some students on campus,” said Gwen Larson assistant director of marketing and media relations. “We have a pre-dental program, but students cannot finish it here because we do not have a dental school. These students end up doing course work here and finishing somewhere else.”
The Oral Health Task Force is expected to make their decision on the feasibility of a school in Kansas by June. If approved, locations for the school will start being evaluated.