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ADA Foundation dental student scholarships help dreams come true

April 21, 2014

Mr. Gonzalez 

Ms. Lancaster

Mr. Nobles

Mr. Brown
Some kids love the dentist so much that they want to be one. Eric Brown, recipient of a 2013-14 ADA Foundation Underrepresented Minority Dental Student Scholarship, was one of those kids.

"When I was younger, I had a lot of cavities," said Mr. Brown, 25. "So I would have to go see the dentist a lot. From there, I was able to build a relationship with my dentist, which is actually really cool because I never really had a stable father-figure in my life. So seeing him on a consistent basis, we naturally bonded. We had a good relationship."

Now a second-year dental student at the University of California San Francisco School of Dentistry, Mr. Brown is one of 56 dental students awarded 2013-14 ADAF predoctoral scholarships.

"I was always interested in the sciences," Mr. Brown said. "So once I got to undergrad at U.C. Riverside, I sat back and thought about the different health professions and which one could fit me as a person. I came across dentistry just because of that relationship that I had growing up with my dentist. I figured if I could do any of the health professions, it would be dentistry."

The ADA Foundation awards approximately 54 scholarships annually to second-year, predoctoral dental students, including up to 25 to underrepresented minority dental students of African American, Hispanic or Native American descent. From the pool of applicants, up to four winners are granted scholarships named and funded in honor of Dr. Robert B. Dewhirst and Robert J. Sullivan. All scholarships are merit-based and are valued at $2,500.

Early experiences in dentistry also influenced the course of scholarship recipient Johnny Nobles' life. Mr. Nobles, 25, is a second-year dental student at the UCSF.

"I noticed a lot of disparities in oral health when I was younger," said Mr. Nobles, referring to access to care issues for low-income minorities. "I want to try to lessen some of the disparities, so my main view of dentistry is toward the public health sector."

Both Mr. Brown and Mr. Nobles, who are African American, received underrepresented minority dental student scholarships. So did Cuauhtemoc "Temoc" Gonzalez, 34, who is of Native American and Mexican descent. He is a second-year dental student at University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry.

For Mr. Gonzalez, the ADAF scholarship has double benefits. "It's reducing some debt that I'm accruing," Mr. Gonzalez said. "I think that's a big part of it. But I kind of think of myself as a role model to younger students or other underrepresented minorities that are thinking about dental school."

Mr. Gonzalez is part of Northern California's Miwok Tribe of El Dorado Rancheria. He has served in the ranks of tribe leadership, including a role as chairman of the tribe for a year and a half, he said. Mr. Gonzalez didn't have role models as a child, he said, so he thinks it's important to be one, to be a "good motivator for a lot of young students."

Lydia Lancaster, 25, a second-year student at Ohio State University College of Dentistry, also received an ADAF dental student scholarship.

"As everyone knows, student debt is a huge issue right now, especially in dental education," Ms. Lancaster said. "Student debt just continues to increase. Any financial support is very helpful. It's going to help me. There are so many things that dental students are responsible for paying for while in school, but we don't have the time or the ability to offset those costs; so any type of support I personally appreciate."

Ms. Lancaster is involved in organized dentistry at the local and student levels. She serves as an ASDA consultant for the Ohio Dental Association Council on Access to Care in Public Service. She also is the ASDA liaison to the Columbus Dental Society.

"I couldn't be more honored to be chosen by the ADA Foundation," she said. "I don't know what exactly I want to do with my career. But regardless of what I do, I do know, without a doubt, I'm going to be involved with the ADA because I really believe strongly in organized dentistry."