Lyon College planning first schools of dentistry, veterinary medicine in Arkansas

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Arkansas could soon be getting its first schools of dentistry and veterinary medicine.

Lyon College announced Monday it has begun the accreditation process for the schools. A news release says they will be located in Little Rock, about 100 miles southwest of the college’s main campus in Batesville.

College President Dr. Melissa Taverner says with access to both dental and veterinary care becoming more of a priority, the timing is right for the small liberal arts college to expand.

“We’re very good in the STEM fields. We prepare people very well for professional schools and graduate education in STEM, but we also have strengths in our education program, in our business program,” Taverner said in an interview. “How do we leverage those strengths for the next level of education?”

The college is partnering with educational consultant OneHealth on the project, as well as the two main accreditation agencies for dental and veterinary education. She says they’ll soon begin a nationwide search for faculty and administrators for the new schools.

“Faculty are attracted to quality programs, and programs that are well-thought out and well-constructed and logistically sound,” Taverner said. “I think that as more of these elements of the programs become solidified, I think that it’s going to be easier to make that sell to potential faculty members and administrators from all over the country.”

Taverner says the schools will offer a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree program, as well as a Doctor of Medical Dentistry degree. She says they chose Little Rock as the site of the new schools in part for its central location within Arkansas.

“One of the things that both of these programs are going to need is clinical placement sites, and it’s a lot easier to find sufficient numbers of clinical placement sites for both of these programs from a central location that’s basically a large metropolitan area,” Taverner said. “Having the primary training site in Little Rock allows people to radiate outward to a variety of clinical sites as they are needed.”

Taverner says a number of locations in Little Rock are being considered as potential sites for the veterinary and dental schools. According to a news release, inaugural classes could begin as early as 2024 or 2025.