Lyon College vet, dental schools still on track for ’25 start; Location close to finalized

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 1,259 views 

Dr. Melissa Taverner, president of Lyon College in Batesville, said the timeline is still intact for a Little Rock campus for a dental and veterinarian school to receive its first classes in 2025.

Appearing on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics, Taverner said Lyon is proceeding with preliminary accreditations and soon-to-be finalized campus selection in Central Arkansas.

“We’re on track, we are making sure that we are doing what we need to do to keep to that ’25 timeline,” she said.

This past week, Lyon College announced it will receive $15 million in funding from the federal government that will be used to form the school’s new dental and veterinarian schools. In April 2022, Lyon College announced its plans to develop Arkansas’ first dental and veterinary medicine schools in Little Rock. The veterinary and dental schools will comprise Lyon College’s Institute of Health Sciences.

Taverner said the thought process for the two specialty schools was to fill a gap in Arkansas and to address an exodus of students leaving the state.

“Before the pandemic, we were thinking, ‘Okay, what else? What else aligns with our mission? What else, what other needs do you do?’ We think that we can contribute to filling in Arkansas and North Central Arkansas and beyond. Obviously, healthcare is always something that needs to be expanded. Access to healthcare and training professionals is an important mission. We already have a very, very strong STEM program. We have a lot of success getting our students into med school and to veterinary school, dental school, pharmacy school. We already do that very, very well. So the logical next step for us was there is no dental school, there is no veterinary school in the state of Arkansas. How could we help alleviate that gap? And that’s when we started thinking, well, maybe we could be a part of that,” she said.

Lyon College originally contracted with an organization called One Health to locate the vet and dental school campuses in a portion of the Heifer International headquarters in downtown Little Rock. That deal fell through a couple of months ago, but Taverner said she is close to revealing a new location in Central Arkansas.

“That particular transaction did not move forward with One Health, but what’s happened is that there are other entities that are interested in supporting and facilitating locating our two professional schools in and around Little Rock. We are coming close to finalizing the location. It’s still Central Arkansas. We’re not looking to move to Mississippi or something like that,” Taverner said.

“We have a number of options that we are still working through and we are making sure that the final choice is going to be optimized,” she added.

You can watch Dr. Taverner’s full interview in the video below.