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‘If I can do it, so can you’

Institute for Diversity in Leadership graduate starts mentorship program

June 26, 2018

By Kimber Solana

IDL
Mentor: Dr. Andrea Davis, third from left, poses for a photo with five high school students she mentors. They are, from left, Cheyenne Robbins, Yessica Hernandez, Ingrid Foley, Morgan Doukas and Olivia Nicole. Dr. Davis mentors another four students in her mentorship program she created through the ADA Institute for Diversity in Leadership. Her goal was to introduce the health care field, especially dentistry, to students in her community.

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Editor's note: This is the seventh in a series featuring graduates of the ADA Institute for Diversity in Leadership and how these dental leaders continue to affect their communities.

Gulfport, Miss. — If there’s one thing Dr. Andrea Davis wished she had growing up in Mississippi, it’s a mentor.

“I do wish I had a mentor earlier,” she said. “I really didn’t have one until I was in dental school. When I was growing up, as a young African-American saying I wanted to be a dentist, I’d get looks saying ‘Yeah, right.’”

It’s for this reason that when Dr. Davis joined the 2013-14 class of the ADA Institute for Diversity in Leadership, she wanted to create a mentorship program in her community as her project.

As part of the Institute, participants are tasked with developing and executing a personal leadership project that addresses an issue or challenge in his or her community, organization or the profession. Institute participants receive help from ADA staff and work with leading educators from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management and Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.

Dr. Davis learned about the Institute via email, just at a time when she was looking to get more involved in organized dentistry.

“I thought it would be an excellent program,” she said. “I thought it would help open some doors in allowing me to reach the kids in my community.”

Dr. Davis said she wanted to create a mentorship program after she saw a lack of diversity in the profession.

“A lot of people in my community just don’t think that dentistry, or the health care field, is an option for them,” said Dr. Davis, a first generation college graduate.

 “I just felt that minorities were underrepresented in dental schools and in the field. I wanted to become a face and voice to kids in my community.”

At the Institute, Dr. Davis received guidance and learned from a variety of mentors, including several Institute graduates who have created mentorship programs as their project.

“That was great because I was able to learn from them, especially the dos and don’ts,” she said.

In addition to guidance, Dr. Davis said, the ability to introduce herself as a graduate of the Institute opened up several doors. When she approached her local high school and offered to start a mentorship program, they sent several dozen students who were interested in the health sciences to her dental practice.

“The response was overwhelmingly positive,” she said.

Recognizing that not all of the students would be interested in dentistry, Dr. Davis incorporated additional activities, including helping the high school students fill out college applications and build their resumes.

Today, Dr. Davis still mentors, but at a smaller — more focused —scale. She’s found two high school students interested in careers in health care. Another is a dental student at the University of Mississippi who shadows Dr. Davis at her dental practice; an undergraduate predental student who’s getting ready to enter dental school; and a nursing student who is interested in pursuing dentistry instead.

“They always come to me and ask what they should focus on or what the next steps they should take,” Dr. Davis said. “Mentoring can be hard. But I just want to be able to tell these kids that if I can do it, so can you.”