New partner program with Joplin dental school to help students, region 

  Thursday, October 29, 2020 11:00 AM
  News, Academics, Milestones, Science and Technology

Pittsburg, KS


Graduates of Pittsburg State University who are pursuing a career in dentistry will be able to complete their degrees in fewer years and do so closer to home, thanks to a new partner program agreement with Kansas City University. 

KCU, which established a College of Osteopathic Medicine in Joplin, Missouri, in 2017, will build a dental school there, just 40 minutes southeast of PSU. 

It’s projected to open in 2022 with an eye toward helping the region fill a severe dentist shortage; nearly all counties within a 125-mile radius of Joplin qualify as Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. 


Linda Niessen, dean of KCU’s College of Dental Medicine, said she’s looking forward to the partnership. 

“KCU is known for identifying creative solutions and building partnerships, and we have come to know PSU as being adept at that, as well,” Niessen said. “We’re proud to partner with PSU to help close the gap on the shortage of dentists while at the same time providing unparalleled opportunities for their students.”  

Students who are selected for the partner program will matriculate into KCU as full-time, first-year students following their junior year at PSU and after completing specific coursework. 

They’ll receive their bachelor’s degree from PSU after successfully completing their first year at KCU, meaning they’ll complete both their bachelor’s and doctorate’s degree in seven years instead of eight. 

According to Virginia Rider, chair of the PSU Biology Department, PSU faculty will identify students in their freshman year who are good candidates for the program. Criteria include an acceptable ACT score, academic performance, community service, undergraduate and high school activities, and a dedication to the field. 

To remain in the program and matriculate to KCU, they must maintain an overall GPA of 3.25 and a science coursework GPA of 3.5. They’ll be considered for admission to KCU after an interview with KCU Admissions staff and faculty. 

Rider described both the partnership and the new dental school as valuable assets for PSU students that also will have a tremendous impact on the region. 

"We anticipate the new school will spur economic growth across Southwest Missouri, Southeast Kansas, and Northeast Oklahoma," she said. "We're excited to broaden opportunities for our Pitt State students, and also to participate in work force development and improved health care in the region." 

Statistics show approximately 46 million Americans live in parts of the nation where dental care is hard to access; its estimated that 7,000 more dental practitioners are needed to serve those areas. The median salary for dentists is $159,200 per year. 

“Perhaps many of these students will go on to become dentists right here in communities in this area, which we know is something for which there’s demand,” Rider said. 

About Kansas City University: 

Kansas City University, founded in 1916, is a regionally accredited, not-for-profit private health sciences university with a College of Osteopathic Medicine, a College of Biosciences, and a soon-to-open College of Dental Medicine. The College of Osteopathic Medicine is the eighth largest medical school in the nation and the leading producer of physicians for the State of Missouri.  

About PSU's Biology Department:

PSU's Department of Biology offers undergraduate programs covering the range of modern biology including pre-health (pre-med, pre-dentistry, pre-vet, pre-optometry, pre-physical therapy), medical technology, pre-physicians assistant, cell and molecular biology, wildlife biology, fisheries and aquatic sciences, botany, ecology, secondary education.

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