The Delta Dental Foundation (DDF) $25,000 Diversity Dental Student Scholarship will support four students from systematically underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds entering the Ohio State University College of Dentistry, the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry, the Indiana University School of Dentistry, and the University of Michigan School of Dentistry each year.
“Diversifying the dental field is one way to tackle oral health disparities and racism in healthcare,” said Holly Seabury, EdD, executive director of the DDF. “Increase representation, improve care for underserved communities.”
Dental care remains underused by or inaccessible to communities of color, the DDF said, largely due to historical disenfranchisement and discrimination. Today, the DDF continued, one in five people of color report experiencing racism or discrimination in a healthcare setting. As a result, many have poorer oral health and higher rates of periodontal disease and tooth decay, which can lead to tooth loss and other health issues.
Patients of color receive better care from and establish greater trust with providers who look like they do, the DDF said, but there aren’t enough of those providers to go around. Despite accounting for more than a third of the United States population, fewer than 10% of dentists are Black, Hispanic, or Indigenous, the DDF said.
“Financial concerns are one reason many prospective dental students bow out,” said Seabury. “Our hope is that by providing upfront financial support, the Diversity Dental Student Scholarship will encourage more students to take that leap.”
“As a Catholic institution with Jesuit and Mercy sponsors, we understand the issues of social justice and equity and the importance of building a diverse oral health workforce as part of improving access to care and patient compliance within marginalized populations,” said Dr. Mert N. Aksu, dean of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry.
“We see firsthand the impact of connecting patients with providers who have the ability to relate in a way that overcomes cultural and social barriers and improves care outcomes,” Aksu said.
“Improving diversity in all its forms is a longstanding goal of our school,” said Dr. Laurie K. McCauley, dean of the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. “We are proud to partner with Delta Dental Foundation to support students who are disadvantaged educationally, socially, or economically.”
“We are grateful for the generous support provided by Delta Dental Foundation through this new scholarship for students from underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds at Indiana University School of Dentistry,” said Dr. Carol Anne Murdoch-Kinch, dean of the school.
“This new scholarship will help make it possible for more underrepresented minority students to enter the dental profession, one of many avenues for change required to improve oral healthcare for underserve communities,” Murdoch-Kinch said.
“Ohio’s underserved and minority communities have a demonstrated need for oral healthcare resources,” said Dr. Patrick Lloyd, dean of the Ohio State University College of Dentistry.
“The Diversity Dental Student Scholarship will support our College of Dentistry’s efforts to attract diverse students who will graduate from our DDS program and consider establishing their own dental practices in the state’s underserved areas and communities in need,” said Lloyd.
“We applaud the Delta Dental Foundation’s efforts in addressing this need, and we are honored to partner with them as we work to reduce oral healthcare disparities in Ohio,” said Lloyd.