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Donors step up to fund ADA Foundation scholarships

For 15 years the ADA Foundation has provided scholarships to second-year dental students.

Then the recession came last year and the ADA Foundation faced a loss of assets value and the possibility that some grant programs might have to be temporarily suspended, including the 2009 scholarship program.

Worried that the program was in jeopardy, the ADA Foundation Board turned to its donors to raise additional funds for 20 scholarships, 10 for all dental students and 10 specifically for minority dental students—far fewer than the 50 awards usually granted.

Donors in turn, went above and beyond, stepping up to offer gifts and pledges to provide 38 scholarships—an impressive number given the circumstances.

"The ADA Foundation was hurt in the stock market along with everyone else," said ADA Foundation President Art Dugoni. "As a responsible Board of Directors, we could not provide awards from current assets until those assets recovered. Unfortunately, we faced the very real possibility that one graduating class might never have had the chance to get one of these scholarship awards. The donors really came through for our future dentists and we are delighted."

The scholarships, recipients say, make a real difference to future dentists.

Lauren Errington, who received an ADA Foundation scholarship for the 2008-09 academic year, said she was glad that the ADA recognizes that dental school is demanding for students; she couldn't imagine juggling a part-time job alongside side her coursework.

The ADA Foundation scholarship she received helped ensure that sure she didn't have to.

"The scholarship allowed to me really dedicate my time to continuing my studies and interests without worrying," said Ms. Errington, a third-year dental student at the University of Maryland Baltimore College of Dental Surgery.

The Foundation realizes that the $2,500 scholarships don't cover everything, but the goal is to relieve students from some of the burdens of their loans, according to Dr. David Matthews, chair of the ADAF Scholarship Fund.

"These scholarships, hopefully, send a strong message that we care about these future colleagues," he said. "The applicants are truly a bright and talented group. We wish that more scholarship funds were available to give financial aid to additional students."

Staci Robinson, now a third-year student at Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, said the 2008-09 scholarship has helped her get one step closer to her goal of becoming a pediatric dentist.

"There are very few organizations that provide scholarships to dental students. I was very disheartened by this, until I learned that I was nominated for an ADAF scholarship," she said. "Receiving an ADAF scholarship has renewed my sense of pride in the ADA, for understanding and addressing the needs and concerns of dental students across the country."

Ms. Errington said thanks to the scholarship she also had time to design, along with some of her classmates, an afterschool program for elementary school-aged children, as well as help with some of her dental school's research.

Dr. Matthews stressed that anyone can help make a difference in these students' lives, simply by donating to the cause. Every little bit counts, he said. "The committee was delighted to recognize these outstanding students and we thank our donors for allowing us to do it."

The 2009-10 scholarship recipients were named in early December. For a list of the 2009 scholarship winners, go to www.adafoundation.org.