The West Virginia University School of Dentistry has received a prestigious national award for improving the smiles and oral health of West Virginians.

The first Orna Shanley Prize for Enhancing Access to Care was presented to School of Dentistry Interim Dean Louise Veselicky by the American Dental Education and the International Federation of Dental Education Associations.

The award recognizes an academic dental institution that has demonstrated innovative solutions for addressing local access to care issues.

Its a very significant achievement for the WVU School of Dentistry to be the first academic institution from around the world to receive this award,Veselicky said.

Meeting the health care needs of people throughout the state is an important part of the Universitys mission to serve, WVU President Mike Garrison said.Were very proud of the accomplishments of the School of Dentistry and its efforts to reach out to people in our most rural areas.

The School of Dentistry has several programs that provide oral health care to people around the state. In Morgantown, the WVU Dental Clinic at WVU Health Sciences offers discounted dental services. WVU also provides dental care to Morgantown Health-Rite patients.

At the statewide level, the Rural Health Education Partnership (RHEP) program places WVU School of Dentistry students in clinics in 30 of the states 55 counties. The students complete a rural rotation, providing dental services to underserved West Virginians. Since 2001, WVU dental school students have seen more than 17,000 patients and performed more than 32,000 procedures through the RHEP Program.

The First Smiles program is a new School of Dentistry statewide initiative. WVU created a training session for dentists and other oral health professionals in the state, teaching them how to perform a childs first dental exam. New guidelines stress the need for children to see a dentist by their first birthday.

Starting dental checkups early not only helps prevent cavities, but it also establishes a good habit of going to the dentist,Elliot Shulman said.

Richard Meckstroth coordinates with the West Virginia Special Olympics Committee to provide oral screening and education at the Summer Games. Dental and dental hygiene students, as well as faculty and alumni of the School of Dentistry, participate.

The School of Dentistry received $1,000 with the award that is to be placed in the Schools General Scholarship Fund.

WVU is the only dental school in the state, and it graduates about 50 new dentists a year. Approximately 81 percent of dentists practicing in West Virginia are WVU School of Dentistry graduates.

For more information about the WVU School of Dentistry, visit