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Lyon College Names Burke Soffe Dean of Dental School

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Lyon College on Wednesday named Dr. Burke Soffe the founding dean of the Lyon College School of Oral Health and Dental Medicine in Little Rock.

Soffe is currently an assistant dean at the Roseman University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine in Utah. He’ll officially start at Lyon on July 1. 

Soffe has been a full-time faculty member at Roseman since January 2013 and previously served as the school’s director of curriculum, director of clinical education and clinical practice team leader. Before then, he practiced at a private clinic in Virginia for five years.

“His vision for dental education in the 21st Century completely aligns with that of Lyon College and OneHealth, so we believe that we have found the perfect partner to bring our collective vision to fruition,” Melissa Taverner, president of Lyon College, said in a news release.

The hiring of Soffe is another step toward Lyon’s goal of launching the state’s first dentistry program in partnership with OneHealth Education Group of Little Rock. The program will be housed at the current headquarters of Heifer International. The nonprofit has agreed to sell the 28-acre site, which includes a 28,000-SF building. 

The downtown campus will also be home to Lyon’s veterinary school, which would be the first in the state.

The Higher Learning Commission’s Institutional Actions Council in November gave initial approval to Lyon’s request to offer doctorate degrees in dental and veterinary care.

Soffe will serve as a consultant over the next few months as the college looks to take another important step, obtaining accreditation from the Commission on Dental Accreditation.

Pending accreditation, the inaugural classes could start as early as 2024 or 2025.

Soffe holds a Doctor of Medical Dentistry degree from the University of Nevada Las Vegas and master’s in education in curriculum design from Western Governors University in Salt Lake City. He earned his bachelor’s at Southern Virginia University.

Soffee said that in his new role, he’s looking to develop not just a dental school, but a “dental home safety net for the entire state” that includes partnerships with local dentists and clinics.

“As founding dean, I look forward to addressing the oral health needs of the underserved across Arkansas,” he said. “I look forward to the school improving oral health literacy, access to dental care, and enhancing the efficiency of dental education with a focus on quality, person-centered care.

“I also look forward to working with state and local officials, organized dentistry, dental industry stakeholders, and dentists across the state to understand their professional needs and develop partnerships.”

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