Hunt School of Dental Medicine Dean Dr. Richard Black Named a 2023 DentaQuest Health Equity Hero – El Paso Herald Post

After 40 years of running a successful orthodontics practice here in El Paso, Richard Black, D.D.S., M.S., looked forward to a new challenge.

He found just that when Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso offered him the job of founding dean for its new Hunt School of Dental Medicine in 2020. Recognizing that there were many families living along the U.S.-Mexico border without access to adequate oral health care, he eagerly took on the position.

Three short years later, Dr. Black has been named a DentaQuest Health Equity Hero for 2023. This shines a spotlight on a career of championing equitable access to health care.

“I’m deeply honored to receive the DentaQuest Health Equity Hero award,” said Dr. Black. “This recognition is not just for me, but for the dedicated team at the Hunt School of Dental Medicine and our students who are committed to serving El Pasoans most in need. We are working to bridge gaps in health care access, a transformation that we believe will have a positive impact on our region and beyond.”

Before Dr. Black became dean of the only dental school in our historically underserved Borderplex region, El Pasoans long sought a solution to affordable dental care access. El Paso County had three times fewer dentists than the rest of the U.S., with only one dentist for every 4,840 residents, compared to the national average of one for every 1,638 individuals.

Dr. Black’s vision for public health and innovative education set a new standard for dental education across North America. His vision contributed to the early success of the Hunt School of Dental Medicine, which was the first dental school established in Texas in 50 years. A leader in bilingual health care education, the school is the only one that requires students to be conversant and take courses in medical Spanish and to treat patients in the dental clinic during their first semester.

Dr. Black cultivated an academic model that fosters early clinical experience, with a strong emphasis on serving diverse populations. He has been instrumental in addressing health disparities by creating a learning environment where students serve those who lack access to adequate dental care. The inaugural dental class, which will graduate in 2025, not only embraces these values but also embodies them.

Dr. Black led his team in establishing the Texas Tech Dental Oral Health Clinic, which has provided much-needed oral health care for underserved communities while serving as an invaluable teaching platform for students. His leadership is actively reducing the oral health care gap in our Borderplex region. Since opening in 2021, this clinic has provided reduced-cost oral health care to over 3,500 patients.

Part of Sun Life U.S., the DentaQuest Health Equity Heroes program strives to break down barriers and drive transformative change in the health care landscape, working toward a vision where every person can attain optimal overall health. Now in its ninth year, the program honors individuals and organizations responsible for extraordinary work that advances equitable access to health care, encompassing medical, oral health and behavioral health. With approximately 74 million Americans lacking dental coverage, and health disparities affecting numerous underserved communities, DentaQuest’s mission is not just timely but essential.

“We take delight in honoring Dr. Black for his lifetime commitment to oral health and his work to get this unique dental school off the ground,” said Aaron Washburn, head of client engagement for DentaQuest. “At DentaQuest, our mission is to improve oral health care for one and all. We want everyone across the nation to know the Hunt School of Dental Medicine was founded with a similar mission. This school has a profound impact not just here in El Paso but also across West Texas.”

As part of the DentaQuest award, Dr. Black received a $5,000 gift, which he donated to the Dental Dean’s Excellence Fund of the Hunt School of Dental Medicine. The funds will go toward training homegrown talent who upon graduation will reduce the shortage of dentists in the region and ensuring sustained quality care for our local communities.

“This award is an important milestone,” said Dr. Black. “However, it’s only the part of our continued journey toward ensuring dental care access for all.”

To help provide dental care access to El Pasoans most in need, contact Craig Holden at [email protected].

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