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In a first for IU School of Dentistry, women outnumber men in the Class of 2016

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September 5, 2012

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Incoming class of dental students has more women than men in school's first 95 years

For the first time in the 133-year history of the Indiana University School of Dentistry on the IUPUI campus, the incoming class of dental students has more women than men. Sixty female students and 44 male students were accepted into the Doctor of Dental Surgery Class of 2016, putting these students in a class of their own, compared to other dental schools in the U.S.

“This is a sea change for Indiana,” said Dr. John Williams Jr., dean of the IU School of Dentistry. "Nationally more and more women are applying to dental schools. But to have this large of a swing and this proportion of female students, relative to other dental schools, is unusual.”

The incoming classes of dental school students across the country tend to be more equally divided between women and men, Williams said. That was the case last year when the 2011 incoming IU dental class had 52 women and 52 men. In 2010, the incoming class had 56 men and 44 women.

A total of 1,662 people applied for 104 slots in IU’s 2012 incoming dental class. Of those applicants, 895 were men and 748 were women.

There was no attempt to shape the class, other than to select the best qualified applicants, Williams said. The new class includes 76 Indiana residents.

IU’s dental school started as the Indiana Dental College in 1879 and was acquired by Indiana University in 1925.

Graduation photos of classes of dental students dating back to 1882 line the hallway outside the dean’s office, and women don’t begin showing up in the photos in significant numbers until the early 1970s. More than 5,000 men graduated from the school from 1880 to 1974 -- and just 56 women.

It’s a different world, Williams said. In the past, women were steered to nursing, education and teaching as careers. “Women realize there are opportunities for them in the professions that historically have been dominated by white males,” he said.

Female applicants are extremely competitive academically, Williams said. “They are serious students, show empathy for their patients and tend to be externally focused on a commitment to others.”