Gift to create University of Pikeville dentistry college

An aerial view of the University of Pikeville campus.

Provided to the Herald-Leader by the University of Pikeville.

The largest single donation in the University of Pikeville’s history will allow the private institution to create a college of dentistry.

The donor of $25 million is anonymous. The university aims for the college to have its first class in three years.

“The foresight of a generous family giving to a university to establish a dental school is special,” UPIKE President Burton Webb said. “This is another example of challenges being met and solved right here by those who call this area home. It’s also incredible that the university, this family and now a dental school will each have their roots right here in these mountains.”

Burton Webb University of Pikeville

Webb said talks about adding a dentistry school began years ago but creating a optometry school took precedence. The Kentucky College of Optometry welcomed its first class in 2016 and became accredited in 2020. The Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine was founded in 1997.

The dentistry school would round out a full orb of healthcare, he said.

“This donor has a deep love for Appalachia and a passion for improving healthcare in our region,” UPIKE Vice President for Advancement and Alumni Relations David Hutchens, who build a relationship with the donor, said. “Their generosity will reverberate for generations, impacting not only the graduates of the program but also profoundly benefiting the lives of the countless patients they will serve for generations to come. This is a transformative gift, an act of deep love and devotion for this region.”

Chair of the UPIKE Board of Trustees Terry Dotson said the founding of the dental program will lead to better healthcare outcomes for a historically medically underserved population.

“The dental school will complete the circle of medical services for the region and the immediate area,” Dotson said. “The economic impact with the addition of more professional students will grow businesses throughout the entire community and the region.”

UPIKE began reconsidering a dentistry school, Webb said. A feasibility study found the need to have dental education in a rural region was still there.

“Many rural communities access to dental health is very difficult to get,” Webb said.

The graduates of the medical and optometry schools often choose to practice in rural areas, and he believes it will be the same for dentistry school graduates, he said.

The announcement was made to the new osteopasthic medicine and optometry graduates at the spring commencement ceremony Saturday. Webb said it was an electric moment in the crowd of healthcare providers.

Liz Moomey is a Report for America Corps member covering Eastern Kentucky for the Lexington Herald-Leader. She is based in Pikeville.

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