Open wide and say ‘moo’

It always seemed odd that Arkansas is home to two law schools, but had neither a school of dentistry nor a veterinary school.

Arkansawyers seemed to prefer the paper to the periodontal chase, the bar (association) to the barn.

The lack of a dentistry school was bad enough. But no school for vets? Come on, now. This always seemed especially out of place in a rural, farm state like Arkansas.

But hence comes a Lyon to the rescue. Batesville’s prestigious little Presbyterian college announced earlier this year plans to open the state’s first schools of dentistry and veterinary medicine.

Lyon’s Institute of Health Sciences will be housed at the Heifer International corporate campus in downtown Little Rock’s trendy East Village. OneHealth Education Group, partnering with Lyon to open the schools, is purchasing the space, and Heifer will continue to lease space there. The $17 million campus, opened in 2006, should serve students well and add a robust new element to the neighborhood.

And now comes news that the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences will collaborate on the dental school. Though UAMS already offers a postdoctoral residency in general-practice dentistry, leadership no doubt realized it couldn’t afford to let a dental school in Arkansas escape its affiliation. And Lyon counterparts no doubt welcome the help.

A newly signed memo of understanding says Lyon and UAMS will join forces “where practical” in the areas of teaching, research, graduate education and professional development. As the Heifer HQ is retrofitted, the Institute awaits necessary accreditation. Lyon officials expect to open both schools in 2024 or 2025.

It’s about time. We’ve tired over the years of seeing diplomas displayed from the University of Tennessee in our local dentists’ offices or from Oklahoma State at the local vet. Why were there no in-state options?

Arkansas has about 14 veterinarians per 100,000 residents, according to Veterinarians.org. That ranks 49th. Arkansas, next to last in the number of vets. How could it be?

We don’t fare much better when it comes to per capita dentists. The Library of Medicine says Arkansas had 41.82 dentists per 100,000 folks, as of 2019. Ahead only of Alabama. (If one reads that on a football field, does it count as a win?)

Aside from wins over Alabama, the state needs more dentists, more veterinarians. Though some neighboring schools offer in-state tuition to Arkansas residents, Lyon’s new offering is expected to boost demand. And maybe keep all our aspiring dentists and vets at home.

It’s high time for Arkansas to open wide and say moo.

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