Mentoring Program to Develop a More Diverse Dental Workforce

Dentistry Today


Faculty at the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine will develop a national mentoring network to support a diverse dental, oral, and craniofacial workforce.

Dr. Effie Ioannidou, professor of periodontology, will use a $1.3 million grant awarded to the American Association for Dental Research (AADR) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) to support the program.

Researchers from AADR and the University of Iowa will join Ioannidou as co-principal investigators.

“I am thrilled with the opportunity to partner with the AADR, the University of Iowa, and the NIDCR in developing this network. We also managed to bring together 11 other schools with mentors who generously agreed to collaborate with us,” said Ioannidou.

“This is not only exciting but also timely. UConn School of Dental Medicine will play a leading role in promoting diversity in the oral and craniofacial research workforce through concrete programmatic activities,” she said.

The AADR Mentoring Inclusive Network for a Diverse Workforce of the Future (MIND the Future) will address the need for more diversity in the NIH-funded biomedical, behavioral, clinical, and social sciences workforce by building a vibrant, inclusive community of investigators to help advance research and improve oral health, UConn said.

Over the next five years, the network will directly help 10 new mentees per year from underrepresented groups develop professional career skills, transition from one career stage to the next, and help support a high-quality, independently funded research program. It will offer both educational activities and interactive opportunities.

Dr. Eric Bernstein, interim dean of academic affairs and grant co-investigator with expertise on synchronous and asynchronous didactic models, will develop and direct part of the program. Dr. Mina Mina, professor of pediatric dentistry with a long history of graduate and post-graduate training and mentoring, also will be a member of the mentoring group network.

“Mentoring is a critical way to help ensure equity within the academic and research career paths. It is an active mechanism to begin dismantling the systemic racism and sexism that have plagued our institutions of higher education for far too long,” said Bernstein.

“Using a variety of teaching and learning modalities in the program further supports equity by leveraging interactive technologies, much more familiar now in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, to reduce costs and increase access to the training the program provides,” said Bernstein.

“Mentorship is an important factor in career development and transitioning to individuals’ next career stages for all, including those who have been underrepresented in the field of dentistry and the dental, oral, and craniofacial research community,” said Mina.

“MIND the Future program will provide necessary tools and activities to participants to achieve professional career advancement and independent research funding,” said Mina.

The program includes a national network of 11 universities and three organizations that will be intricately involved in the initiative, said UConn, including the two dental schools based in Historically Black Universities and Colleges. Eligible candidates seeking to participate in the program can apply online.

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