To increase enrollment of underrepresented students, the University at Buffalo (UB) School of Dental Medicine has launched Destination Dental School, an initiative that aims to remove barriers to careers in dentistry for undergraduate students of color.
Destination Dental School is open nationwide to all underrepresented undergraduate students interested in a career in dentistry. It will provide hands-on simulation activities and research, access to mentorship from UB dental students and faculty, dental school application assistance, and networking opportunities with local dentistry leaders, UB said.
The free program, which will run on Saturdays from June 4 through July 31, also will sponsor eligible participating students for their Dental Admission Test, a standardized exam required for entry into dental school.
Destination Dental School is accepting applications. Students are encouraged to apply online by February 28. The program was conceived by UB fourth-year dental student and Buffalo native Arian Johnson, who encountered difficulties applying to dental school.
“I realized there was a lack of resources for students like myself. As an undergraduate student, I had some advisement but I needed more guidance. I didn’t know the right classes to take, my timeline was off, I didn’t take the right test prep, and my professors wouldn’t give me a recommendation,” said Johnson.
Latino, African American, and Native American people make up around 5%, 4%, and 1% of dentists respectively despite representing a larger percentage of the US population, according to the ADA Health Policy Institute.
Pipeline programs have proven to be an effective solution, increasing enrollment of underrepresented students in dental schools by 54%, according to a report by the Journal of the American Dental Association.
“Disparities in oral health and healthcare are realities that were only highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. By increasing diversity in our student body and, eventually, in dental practitioners, we can better serve our diverse community,” said Dana Keblawi, DDS, associate dean for diversity and inclusion in the UB School of Dental Medicine.
“Increasing the number of underrepresented students in dentistry will improve access to oral healthcare in underserved communities,” Keblawi said.
To make Destination Dental School a reality, Johnson gathered support from Shanna Crump-Owens, director of the UB Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) and joined the School of Dental Medicine’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, a group of faculty, staff, and students collaborating to foster an environment of inclusive excellence and achieve the school’s diversity and inclusion strategic goals, UB said.