Lyon begins plans to develop proposed veterinary and dental medicine schools in Little Rock | White River Now

Lyon College has announced it has begun developing plans for proposed veterinary and dental schools located in Little Rock.

According to a release from Lyon, the schools will be part of the new Lyon College Institute of Health Sciences.

Lyon’s faculty assembly and board of trustees approved both proposals in March, and the proposals for academic changes were submitted to the college’s regional accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), on Tuesday, March 15.

Following consideration by HLC, Lyon will submit the prepared accreditation applications with both the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Council on Education (COE) and the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Pending the accreditors’ approval, inaugural classes could start as early as 2024 or 2025.

Lyon has identified several potential locations in Little Rock and should finalize the location for the campus soon.

To ensure the success of the schools’ openings, Lyon College has entered into a strategic collaboration with OneHealth Education Group (OneHealth). OneHealth utilizes private sector capital and consultant solutions to support the launch of professional health science programs, Lyon said in the release. The group aims to reduce the debt burden of graduating professionals and to provide solutions for communities that lack ample access to healthcare.

“We are excited to convene Lyon College, dental and veterinary leaders, and other funders together to create this opportunity,” said Frazier Edwards, president of OneHealth.

Last year, Arkansas ranked 51st in the country for dental health and is experiencing a dentist shortage.

“With no in-state options, aspiring dental students in Arkansas are forced to pay out-of-state tuition, which is significantly greater than in-state tuition fees,” said Andy Goodman, president of Arkansas’ Independent Colleges & Universities. “Once students migrate away from Arkansas for school, they are less likely to return, draining talent and energy from our state.”

Additionally, with only 14.3 veterinarians per 100,000 individuals, Arkansas ranks 49th in the country for its veterinarian-population ratio, and agriculture makes up nearly 15% of Arkansas’s economy, with poultry, cattle, and equines accounting for the largest share of that. Demand is expected to increase sharply. A recent study predicts Americans will increase their spending on pet healthcare by 33% in the next decade, while the number of new veterinarians entering the profession each year increases by just 2.7% annually, falling short of the need for 40,000 new veterinarians in the United States by 2030.

“Lyon has a 150-year history of providing exceptional and relevant education to Arkansans and students of the region,” said Lyon President Melissa Taverner (pictured below). “These plans are part of a comprehensive, strategic set of initiatives, all borne out of our vision for Lyon and higher education in Arkansas, as we mark our sesquicentennial year.”

“Our strength in education, coupled with our partnership with OneHealth, creates a unique opportunity to meet an important need that affects every Arkansan.”

Earlier this year, Lyon also announced a collaboration with White River Medical Center (WRMC) in Batesville to develop an RN to BSN program. (Click here for that story from White River Now.) Taverner explained that these partnerships with WRMC and OneHealth are “intentional efforts to continue providing excellent undergraduate education at our central campus in Batesville while also expanding to offer graduate and professional programs in Little Rock and beyond.”

OneHealth has partnered with the country’s leading education consulting firms, the Academy of Advancing Leadership (AAL) and the Animal Policy Group, for guidance in developing the schools, the release said. The AAL is a health and higher education consulting firm assisting directly with the dental school development, and the Animal Policy Group works closely with the veterinary industry and schools in the United States and throughout the world to maximize their success.

“The partnership between Lyon College and OneHealth will launch a community-based and a distributive model of education and clinical care to meet the significant oral health needs of Arkansas,” Dr. Karl Haden, President of AAL, said. “AAL is pleased to contribute to the planning and initiation of the school.”

Lyon College Board Chair Perry Wilson (pictured below) described today’s announcement as “a proud moment for Lyon College and the state of Arkansas.”

“This strategic initiative is consistent with the long-standing mission of Lyon College and will propel the economic growth of our state.”

In an article posted on Arkansas Business on Monday (Click here — subscription may be required), Taverner told the publication Lyon decided on Little Rock and not Batesville because of the capital city’s size and amenities while also noting the city’s central location in the state is “beneficial for accessibility for potential students.”

Images via Lyon College

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