On Friday March 8th the group representing the proposed Bluefield College Dental School met with VDA leadership as well as Component 6 dentists. The Bluefield College/Tazewell County group included: Dr. David Olive, President of Bluefield College; Dr. Karen West¸ Dean of the UNLV School of Dentistry and consultant to Bluefield College; Mr. Jim Spencer, Tazewell County - County Administrator and Dr. Carole Pratt, Bluefield College consultant.
Bluefield College plans to open its dental school in the fall of 2015. Their target class size is 60, and they hope to have a total of 240 students when fully operational. Tuition is projected to be $50,000 per student for the first year with a 2-5% increase in subsequent years. A clinic of approximately 60 chairs will be built in the Bluestone Business and Technology Center. The facility will serve as the training center for students up until their third year. Fourth year dental students will gain their clinical experience in community based clinics. The Bluefield College Dental School projects a budget of $13.2 million for its seventh year of existence. This dental school is expected to be an economic driver for Tazewell County and the surrounding area and will place an emphasis on training dental students who will practice in rural areas.
This proposed dental educational model is significantly different from the traditional education that most of us have experienced. Some of the questions that still remain to be answered are:
- Can Bluefield College dental students really be trained for less than $60,000 per year when the nation average is $90,000 to $100,000?
- How will their graduates be enticed to remain in rural areas?
- How will the community based clinics in which the 4th year students will receive their clinical training be funded in a reliable manner?
These are just a few questions that Bluefield may be expected to answer during the accreditation process.
The VDA made it clear to the Bluefield College/Tazewell County partners that our association will in no way hinder the development of their program. We have simply asked some important questions that may help in their decision making process.