Penn Dental Medicine students with a passion for serving vulnerable patients will have a new resource to support their interests and goals thanks to a $1 million scholarship grant from the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation, the philanthropic branch of Delta Dental of Pennsylvania.
The grant will endow in perpetuity the awarding of two $25,000 scholarships each year to DMD students who desire to work in an underserved area after graduation and who have demonstrated a commitment to community outreach during their studies. The first application cycle will open this fall for interested candidates in the current third-year class.
“While all of our students gain experience serving the underserved through our community-based service learning courses, we see a significant number of students with a great interest go above and beyond what’s required and develop extensive experience in the community,” said Joan Gluch, PhD, division chief of Community Oral Health at Penn Dental Medicine.
“What’s exciting about this scholarship is that it will provide the support that some students need to ultimately pursue this path after graduation. The need is great, because approximately 48 million people in the United States live in areas with dentist shortages,” said Gluch, who also is co-director of the grant with Olivia Sheridan, DMD, assistant dean for admissions.
The scholarships, which will not reduce a student’s scholarship package from other Penn Dental Medicine resources, are intended to lighten overall expenses and debt during the recipient’s fourth year of study with the goal of clearing a path for a student to pursue a career in community-based dentistry.
“The addition of this scholarship resource, even though it applies to the final stages of students’ DMD time and beyond, will be a tremendous resource in our recruitment efforts as well,” said Sheridan. “The availability of scholarships to offset loans can be a deciding factor for students who may have considerable undergraduate debt or who come from a financially challenged background.”
In addition to completing a minimum of 250 hours of community-based service and finishing all their DMD requirements on time in their fourth year, recipients must demonstrate employment in a medically underserved or health professions shortage area by October of their graduating year and commit to two years in that role after graduation.
“We are thrilled with the generosity and vision of Delta Dental to help us widen the doors of possibility for those students committed to serving communities in need as they enter professional practice,” said Mark Wolff, DDS, PhD, Morton Amsterdam Dean of Penn Dental Medicine.
Over time, Penn Dental Medicine foresees the fund also contributing valuable data to community health needs assessment.
“These new dentists will be a valuable cohort to track to assess the impact scholarships can make in drawing more dental graduates into community-based service,” said Gulch. “We will create a mechanism to remain connected to the Delta Dental scholars and to collect data on practice patterns to help inform our understanding of oral health of vulnerable patients and communities.”
“We’re delighted to have another opportunity to work together with Penn Dental Medicine to further our foundation’s mission of increasing access to dental care in underserved communities in Pennsylvania and beyond,” said Karen Robinson, executive director of the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation. “This scholarship fund has the potential to improve health and enhance the lives of students and communities for years to come.”