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Alabama's Fifth District Dental Society establishes scholarship for 'hometown' students

September 21, 2015

By Kimber Solana

Homegrown: The Fifth District Dental Society of the Alabama Dental Association awarded University of Alabama dental students, who are from the district, with a yearly $200 scholarship. From left (seated), dental students Claire DeShazer, Jordan Adcock, Mattie Bennett and Emily Simpson. From left (standing), UAB School of Dentistry Dean Michael Reddy; dental students Mary Lynn Shadix, Dillon Patel, Alex Compton, Dakota Clark, Austyn Grissom, Matt Slaughter, Michael Price; Anne Mitchell and Dr. Lew Mitchell, who the scholarship program is named after.
The Fifth District Dental Society of the Alabama Dental Association established a new scholarship program that awards dental students who call the Fifth District their hometown.

The goal: to make a meaningful connection with University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry students, said Dr. Dugald R. McMillan III, Fifth District president. By doing so, he added, the students — after they graduate and begin practicing — are more likely to become members of the district.

"Our goal is to put a face on these students and have them feel comfortable with us," Dr. McMillan said. "We want them to know how important organized dentistry is to their future, and how they need to be involved."

This past spring, the dental society awarded $200 scholarships each to 10 dental students who are from the district, including five first-year students. The Lew and Anne Mitchell Fifth District Scholarship — named after Dr. Lew Mitchell, a delegate to the ADA, and his wife Anne — will be awarded yearly to the students until they graduate. Although the amount is small compared to the overall cost of dental school, to the students, the gesture was priceless.

"The amount was still very generous considering it was awarded to multiple students," said Dakota Clark, first-year dental student. "The gesture was extremely motivating to know, that as a future dentist, I am coming up in an area where fellow dentists want to see you succeed and are actively supporting your endeavors."

Dr. McMillan said the district allotted $2,000 to give out every year and divide among the students. This year's awards were presented at the UAB School of Dentistry scholarship luncheon. Next year, they'll be presented at either the May or August Fifth District meeting to allow members to interact with the students.

"I remember when I first attended these meetings, I didn't feel particularly welcomed by the group," said Dr. McMillan. "I guarantee our members will interact with these kids. We will foster these kids throughout their years in school."

One of the reasons behind the scholarship, Dr. McMillan said, was the district believes those dental students from their district are those most likely to return to their hometown to practice. Mr. Clark, who grew up in Heflin, Alabama, said that although he may not practice in that particular city, he plans to stay in the region.

However, even if they practice elsewhere, the relationship will long continue.

"We plan on calling up whatever district they decide to settle in and tell them to reach out to their new dentist town," he said.

The Fifth District has about 120 members from the counties of Etowah, Blount, Calhoun, Cherokee, Clay, Cleburne, DeKalb, Marshall, Saint Clair and Talladega.