On their journey to become dentists, 40 students will take their seats at the Woody L. Hunt School of Dental Medicine in South Central El Paso this summer.
Part of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso, the new school is on schedule to open in July – the first along the U.S.-Mexico border and the first to open in Texas in more than 50 years. It’s housed in the five-story Medical Sciences Building II at the TTUHSC El Paso campus near Alameda and Reynolds streets.
More than 900 students applied to the Hunt School of Dental Medicine, and about 300 applicants were interviewed for the class of 2025. Another 60 students will be admitted per year. The school will have more than 20 faculty members.
The Dental Learning Center, where students will train, features 80 stations equipped with high-tech simulation manikins and a fabrication lab for crafting dental appliances using 3D scanners and advanced CAD/CAM machines.
“We will have the most innovative curriculum and technology in the United States and Canada when we open,” said Dr. Richard Black, D.D.S., M.S., dean of the Hunt School of Dental Medicine.
“We plan to use symptom-based, case-based teaching. We’re insisting the students learn Spanish, allowing them to bridge language and cultural barriers to deliver the highest quality of oral health care,” Dr. Black said. “We’re also requiring they earn credits for a public health certificate, and we’ll be placing students in the clinic to see patients sooner than probably any other school in the nation.”
Alongside it will be the Texas Tech Dental Oral Health Clinic, a 38,000-square-foot facility equipped with 130 treatment chairs open to the public as well as TTUHSC El Paso faculty, staff, students and their families.
Located on the TTUHSC El Paso campus at Rick Francis Street, the clinic will give dental students experience caring for patients under the close supervision of faculty and will offer reduced-cost dental care to the public.
The school and clinic are both critical to the border region: Studies have found most graduating dentists establish their practices in proximity to their dental school, increasing the number of providers in the region and improving accessibility to oral health care, prevention and education.
In El Paso County, there’s only one dentist for every 4,840 residents, compared to the national average of one dentist for about every 1,640. In 2017, only 50% of El Paso residents visited a dentist.
The vision of a dental school for the region became a reality in 2016 when businessman Woody L. Hunt and his wife Gayle gifted $25 million to TTUHSC El Paso through the Hunt Family Foundation to establish the school. That was followed by a $6 million grant from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation to fund the dental school’s curriculum.
The school was appropriated $20 million from the state budget in 2019, marking a major milestone in its development.
The Hunt School of Dental Medicine was awarded initial accreditation by the Commission on Dental Accreditation in March 2020.