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IU dental school receives grant to increase diversity of students entering dental programs


October 3, 2012

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The Indiana University School of Dentistry was awarded one of 10 grants from a national project that is helping increase the diversity of students entering dental programs.

The Dental Pipeline National Learning Institute awarded the IU dental school at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis a $12,000 grant to develop a yearlong program focused on dental education and recruitment of underrepresented minority students. The institute is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and presented by the American Dental Education Association and University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry.

Each of the dental schools is collaborating with a community partner to develop the programs. The IU dental school will partner with Ivy Tech Community College-Central Indiana.

Pamella Shaw, the dental school’s associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, and Darrell Cain, vice chancellor for student affairs at Ivy Tech, will develop the IU program after attending a three-day institute course in San Francisco in October.

“The earlier we are able to reach out to students about education and professional careers, the more likely they are to pursue them,” Cain said. “The best part of the program is the early exposure to youth who might not have ever considered dentistry as a possible career option.”

Shaw said Ivy Tech is the perfect community partner, given its existing summer programs for high school students and Ivy Tech students, as well as a significant enrollment of students who are minorities.

“My philosophy is the younger the better” when it comes to introducing students to dentistry, she said. “The best thing to do is start before they get to the pre-dental stage.”

In addition to a summer program, Shaw said she also envisions forming a pre-dental group at Ivy Tech with students who are interested in the sciences and health-related fields. She wants to engage these students with hands-on activities at the dental school.

“Dentistry is not like a lot of careers,” Shaw said. “Most people don’t wake up and say, 'That’s for me.' Realistically, that happens when you get exposed to it and understand how it fits into a lot of things you want to do, such as becoming a health care professional, using your hands, using your artistic skills and being able to put a smile on someone’s face.

“You have to work a little harder to get students to look at dentistry,” Shaw said. “But once they see what dentistry offers and they are motivated, they will keep going and going.”