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UMKC Dental Explorer inspires future dentists

April 21, 2014

Exploring dentistry: About 85 high school students got up-close and personal with the dentistry profession during a Dental Explorer Post held in February at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry.
Kansas City, Mo.—In an effort to expose high school students in dentistry and spark interest in pursuing the profession, the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry hosted a Dental Explorer Post in February.

About 85 high school students got up-close and personal with the profession as they participated in hands-on activities, including practicing intravenous insertion on mannequins and suturing on pieces of chicken breasts with the mentorship of 20 U.S. Naval Reserves members.

In addition, using plastic models, UMKC dental students helped participants with drilling and restoring teeth and making dental impressions.

"Not only does the Dental Explorer program help students in prepping early for applying for dental school, it also helps them by getting their feet wet, so to speak," said UMKC dental student Erich Chen, who knows a thing or two about the benefits of the program.

While serving in the Navy, Mr. Chen had developed an interest in dentistry and started attending Explorer posts when he was 24 years old to learn more about the profession. After he got off active duty, he ultimately pursued a career in dentistry while serving in the U.S. Naval Reserves. He was one of the reservists mentoring the high school students during the Feb. 8 event.

"For me, the dental students that taught me how to drill and gave me insight on what to focus on academically really gave me a positive perspective on UMKC and ultimately led me to continue with my career choice," he said.

The UMKC Dental Explorer Post hosts participants from the Kansas City, Mo., area five or six Saturdays during the academic year and explores all aspects of the dental profession. The two-hour sessions feature a presentation by a dental faculty member or a graduate student, followed by hands-on experience in the pre-clinical laboratory.

Dental Explorer is one of several career education programs by Learning for Life, a subsidiary of the Boy Scouts of America that provides ways for students to shadow professionals and learn about careers in various fields.

For recruitment, UMKC Explorer organizers attend high school career days in search of students, especially those in under-represented populations in the health care field, who may have an interest in a health care-related profession.

"The goal is to give students exposure to dentistry through meeting our specialists, staff, admissions committee and our dental students," said organizer John Cottrell, director of Minority and Special Programs at the UMKC School of Dentistry. "This is an opportunity for them to become familiar with us if and when they decide they want to become dentists."

For more information on the UMKC Dental Explorer Post, contact Mr. Cottrell at 1-816-235-2085 or visit For additional information on Learning for Life and Exploring programs, including creating a local Explorer Post, visit