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University at Buffalo launches pipeline program to increase diversity in dentistry

Program conceived by dental student who encountered difficulties applying to dental school

February 04, 2021 Buffalo, N.Y. — In an effort to increase enrollment of underrepresented students, the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine announced Jan. 8 it launched an initiative that aims to remove barriers to careers in dentistry for students of color.
    
Aptly called Destination Dental School, the pipeline program is open nationwide to undergraduate students interested in a career in dentistry. It will provide participants with hands-on simulation activities and research projects, access to mentorship from University at Buffalo dental students and faculty, dental school application assistance, and networking opportunities with local dentistry leaders.
    
The free program, which will run on Saturdays from June 4-July 31, will also sponsor eligible participating students for their dental admission test. Destination Dental School is accepting applications through Feb. 28.
    
The program was conceived by UB dental student and Buffalo-native Arian Johnson, who encountered difficulties applying to dental school.
    
“I realized there was a lack of resources for students like myself,” said Ms. Johnson, now a fourth-year dental student. “As an undergraduate student, I had some advisement but I needed more guidance. I didn’t know the right classes to take, my timeline was off, I didn’t take the right test prep, and my professors wouldn’t give me a recommendation.”
    
Latino, African American and Native American people make up around 5%, 4% and 1% of dentists, respectively, despite representing a larger percentage of the U.S. population, according to the ADA Health Policy Institute.

To make Destination Dental School a reality, Ms. Johnson gathered support from Shanna Crump-Owens, director of the UB Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP), and joined the School of Dental Medicine’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee — a group of faculty, staff and students collaborating to foster an environment of inclusive excellence and achieve the school’s diversity and inclusion strategic goals.

“Disparities in oral health and health care are realities that were only highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. By increasing diversity in our student body and, eventually, in dental practitioners, we can better serve our diverse community,” said Dana M. Keblawi, D.D.S., associate dean for diversity and inclusion in the UB School of Dental Medicine. “Increasing the number of underrepresented students in dentistry will improve access to oral health care in underserved communities.”