Delta Dental helps break ground on new dental school

October 24, 2023

Yakima, Wash – Delta Dental of Washington is celebrating the groundbreaking of a new school of dentistry at Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences following its $12 million commitment to help open the new school. 

Delta Dental of Washington provided PNWU with the grant funding as part of its mission to expand access to oral health across the state of Washington, particularly in underserviced and rural areas. The new school of dentistry is intended to close the employment gap in the oral health professions in Washington by educating and training more dentists prepared to practice across the state. 

“Most dental disease is preventable, but you can’t prevent oral health issues if you don’t have access to care,” said Delta Dental of Washington President & CEO Mark Mitchke. “As a mission-driven organization, Delta Dental of Washington is committed to growing the dental workforce particularly within communities of color and extending access to care for rural and underserved communities where we can make the biggest impact on improving our state’s oral health.” 

According to a 2022 American Medical Association Journal of Ethics article, nationally most dentists are located in urban areas, whereas only 14% of dentists practice in rural areas where 20% of the US population lives. The new PNWU school of dentistry will be the first in the nation where students receive three years of full-time immersive training at a federally qualified health center (FQHC) in Washington, following one year of campus training in Yakima.  

"The school of dental medicine would not be a reality without the support and generosity of Delta Dental of Washington,” said Dr. Panagakos, DMD, PhD, and Founding Dean of PNWU’s School of Dental Medicine. “Delta Dental Equity Hall will provide a state-of-the-art academic space for our program to train the next generation of primary care dentists focused on delivering care to the underserved in Washington, bringing oral health equity to those in need." 

The 30,0000-square-foot state-of-the-art dental school classroom and workspace building, to be named Delta Dental Equity Hall in recognition of the shared commitment of PNWU and Delta Dental of Washington to increase equitable access to dental care, is expected to open to 36 students in the fall of 2025.