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Most graduates from WSU's new dental program have left the state

TOPEKA — Only two out of the seven dentists in the first graduating class of Wichita State University’s new dental residency program have decided to stay in Kansas, the university’s president said Wednesday.

WSU President Don Beggs reported that number while answering questions from the state Senate Ways and Means Subcommittee on Higher Education.

The university started its dental-residency program in 2009. It currently offers a one-year program; a more extensive two-year program will begin after a building project now under construction is completed late this summer, Beggs said.

Seven dentistry school graduates went through the one-year program in its inaugural year, Beggs said, in response to questions from Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka.

“Two of them stayed in Kansas, five of them left,” he said.

“Whoops,” replied Kelly.

Later, she told Beggs “honestly, that’s a little disappointing,” since one of the key purposes of the state-supported program is to train dentists to go into practice in Kansas, especially in rural areas where the shortage of dentists is most critical.

Beggs said that only one of the students was originally from Kansas and that the first class was recruited with an eye toward getting the program running and accredited. Kansas has no dental schools.

Students in the program are all graduates of dental schools who are legally qualified to work as dentists, but who are seeking additional experience before going into practice.

After the hearing, Beggs clarified that of the seven graduates, one is committed to staying in Kansas. Another has indicated that he plans to live for a year with his girlfriend while she completes dental school in another state and then they plan to both return and practice here.

Beggs said the goal of the program is still to generate dentists for Kansas practice.

As the program progresses, it should be able to establish programs where the dentistry residents can get financial aid in exchange for agreeing to stay and practice in Kansas for a period of time — a program the state already has for physicians.

But he said for now, “Our priority is to get started. We’ve got to show we can do this.”

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