The University of Pikeville took the opportunity of commencement ceremonies May 7 to announce the school’s next steps, which include the plans for its next medical school — a school of dentistry which is being fueled by a $25 million donation.

UPike President Burton Webb said that, even before the Kentucky College of Optometry was established, a dental school was identified as a need in the area. That, coupled with a recent $25 million gift from a family foundation which wished to remain anonymous, put the plans at the forefront of the university’s planning.

“For more than three years David Hutchens, VP for Advancement and Alumni Relations, has been working with a family foundation who expressed interest in this project. Sometime before we started the optometry college, the University had done a feasibility study on the need for more dentists in Appalachia,” he said. “At the behest of the family foundation we refreshed that study and it showed continued need. The gift is generous and we are deeply grateful. When the needs of a region and the generous heart of wise philanthropists join forces with a University on the move — great things can happen.“

Webb said the timeframe for the new school will be dependent on several factors, including the acquisition of further funding, the selection of a dean and the ability to progress through the accreditation process.

The number of students the school will be able to handle, he said, has not yet been determined.

“We have proforma financial analysis built on three different numbers, but the final headcount will depend on accreditation as well,” he said.

While acceptance to the school will not be contingent upon the student agreeing to serve in a rural area, Webb said there is a likelihood that many will.

“While we cannot require graduates to serve in a particular area, UPike has a track record of selecting students who want to serve in rural and underserved areas,” he said. “Our osteopathic medical school has been consistently ranked among the top schools for producing primary care physicians who serve in rural and underserved areas. Our plan is to repeat that model in the dental school.

It has also not yet been decided where the new college will be housed, Webb said, and the university may find a building to remodel, but also may decide to build a new facility from scratch.

Webb said the school, once established, will also likely to create a large number of jobs, possibly even 100.

The $25 million gift, he said, is a “great start” toward the establishment of the school.

“$25 million is a great start, but the university will still have a significant amount of skin in the game,” he said. “The total start-up cost will depend on the building and the curriculum we pursue.”