$1.5 million grant aimed at addressing dental shortage areas

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Students in the West Virginia University School of Dentistry have 1.5 million new reasons to stay in West Virginia after they graduate.

David Felton, D.D.S., M.S., dean of the School of Dentistry, and Jason Roush, D.D.S., dental director for the State of West Virginia, announced today the creation of the Dental Workforce Loan Reimbursement program.

The purpose of the program is to promote the recruitment and retention of new dentists in professional shortage areas throughout the state. Recent graduates and graduating dentists can receive up to $50,000 for a two-year commitment to practice in one of those shortage areas. In addition, 20 percent of the recipient’s practice must be Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) patients, and he or she must provide full-time dental services for 32-40 hours per week.

While they can receive $25,000 for a one-year commitment, students who commit to practice in the state for two years will be given priority status. Five recipients will be selected annually.

“Thirty-five percent of the dental workforce in West Virginia will retire within the next decade, which means there will be many practice opportunities for our students to consider in the coming years. However, our students graduate with more than $145,000 in student loan debt, which is a significant burden to carry for someone fresh out of school,” Dr. Felton said. “This reimbursement will help ease that burden and help our students fill the void that will be left by the dentists in the state who will retire in the next 10 years.”

The program was developed by the West Virginia Oral Health Program through a three-year, $1.5 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Roush, a 1998 graduate of the School of Dentistry, said that while this is a pilot program, he hopes it will be here for years to come. “There’s no need to go to another state,” he said. “West Virginia has everything a recent graduate needs, especially in dentistry.”

The deadline for fourth-year dental students to apply is Nov. 16. Recipients of the reimbursement grants will be informed of their selection in early 2013.
For more information: Angela Jones, News Service Coordinator, 304-293-7087
asj: 09-27-12