HPU names new dental school

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May 10—HIGH POINT — The new school of dentistry at High Point University will be named for the founder of the largest dental support organization in the United States, who made a $32 million donation through a family foundation to the project.

Dr. Rick Workman and his family, who live in Windemere, Florida, attended a ceremony on campus Monday afternoon as HPU President Nido Qubein announced the school will be named the Workman School of Dental Medicine.

"It's overwhelming," Workman said as he stood on a stage with a rendering of the dental school building displayed on a giant video screen behind him.

The donation is through the Rick and Angie Workman Foundation.

Rick Workman also was named HPU's dental innovator in residence in September.

Qubein said the Workman School of Dental Medicine will cover 80,000 square feet in a new three-story building. Total investment in the new dental school is expected to be $100 million, part of $400 million that HPU plans to invest in new academic schools and other projects during the next three years.

Qubein said Workman's commitment to the new dental school stemmed from Workman's longtime friendship and working relationship with the school's founding dean, Dr. Scott De Rossi. The two met when De Rossi was dean of the dental school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where Workman was heavily involved in a leadership training program for dentists.

"With this gift, we will create a dental program second to none," De Rossi said.

Workman visited the HPU campus not long after the program was announced a year ago this month. Workman said he was immediately impressed with the university's plans and vision for a new dental school and wanted to become an integral part of developing the program, which he said has "an incredible opportunity to be something special."

Workman started his career with a single dental practice in Effingham, Illinois, and during 20 years of practice saw an opportunity to start a business helping other dentists better balance the clinical and business sides of the field. He went on in 1997 to found Heartland Dental, which now has more than 1,600 locations nationwide offering services to more than 1,400 dentists.

The Workmans are one of three families that earlier this year committed a total of $100 million to HPU. The university hasn't yet released the names of the other two donor families, though HPU has indicated the families live outside North Carolina and operate businesses in publishing and insurance.

HPU's dental school will be the third in the state but the first at a private college or university. Qubein said that 400 prospective students have expressed interest in the dental school.

The university expects to enroll its first class of dental students in the fall of 2023. At full capacity the program will have 240 students.

The Workman School of Dental Medicine plans an innovative approach with a network of dental practices throughout the community that HPU officials expect to become a national model. The practices will allow dental students to gain frontline experience. HPU has said it will partner with dentists who are nearing retirement, allowing veteran dentists to take on an instructional role.

pjohnson@hpenews.com — 336-888-3528 — @HPEpaul