The University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry's successful outreach programs will be expanded and a Comprehensive Health Careers Opportunity Program established through a $1.19 million grant from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services.
The grant is the direct result of the dental school's history of successful recruitment and retention of graduate students from underrepresented minorities and those from backgrounds with disadvantages, said Charles J. Alexander, PhD, program director and associate dean for student affairs. The grant, paid over a five year period, funds a careers program targeting students from kindergarten through postgraduate education.
"The program will increase support to the outreach efforts focusing on middle and high school students and also target undergraduate institutions," Alexander said. "One main focus of the program is to expand the pool of eligible students in our area. This is particularly important due to the ever decreasing numbers of dentists in the United States."
Presently, less than 10 percent of dental students are from underrepresented minority groups and retirements from dental practice are also expected to accelerate. "There are fewer numbers of individuals taking the Dental Admission Test (DAT) and applying for dental schools," according to Alexander. When asked about incentives for young people to become dentists, Alexander said, "The money is often secondary for the students; the reward for them is excelling in their choice of careers."
The UCSF Dental Careers Program (UCSF-DCP) is a comprehensive program to provide career awareness and academic enrichment activities that will assist disadvantaged students as competitive applicants for dental school.
Based at the UCSF School of Dentistry, the careers program will collaborate with three San Francisco high schools (Philip and Sala Burton, Thurgood Marshall, and Mission), four universities (UC-Berkeley, San Diego State University, Morehouse College, and San Francisco State University), and a community based organization (the San Francisco Boys and Girls Club). Each educational partner has committed resources and staff to assist in the implementation and execution of the program.
The UCSF-DCP will collaborate with each partner to provide recruitment activities, preliminary education during the academic year and summer, financial aid information dissemination, entry activities, and counseling and mentoring services to develop a more competitive applicant pool of students.
The careers program was established to address the shortage of dentists from disadvantaged and minority backgrounds. The shortage of these dentists in the Bay Area and state contributes to the lack of available oral health care and also impacts future dentists because of the lack of successful role models for young people. Inadequate knowledge about the profession of dentistry and training requirements also contributes to the low number of applications from disadvantaged and minority students.
Efforts to increase the number of disadvantaged and minority students face increasing challenges in the future; for example, the limited number of students prepared to attend college and enter dental school and the limited number of minority and disadvantaged pre-health majors.
Nationally, African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans represent less than 4.5 percent of the 142,000 practicing civilian dentists. Less than 2.5 percent of the 5,100 dentists in the San Francisco metropolitan area are African American or Hispanic, and less than 1 percent are from Native American backgrounds. There are five counties in the San Francisco Bay area designated as Health Profession Shortage Areas. Increasing the number of minority and disadvantaged dentists is viewed as paramount in improving the oral health care of underserved communities in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The UCSF-DCP will rely on liaisons at each partnership institution to assist with the implementation. Each liaison will play a crucial role monitoring and tracking participants, recruiting students, and assisting with the implementation of the program.
Major activities of the UCSF-DCP are the following:
* Targeting high schools and colleges with high concentrations of disadvantaged students for career presentations; hosting career day programs for partnership high school and college students; mailings targeted area high schools and colleges; and providing observation experiences for partnership high school students through a mentorship program. UCSF School of Dentistry staff will conduct year-round recruitment activities.
* Providing a year-round post-baccalaureate program for 15 disadvantaged undergraduate students to participate in an intensive 8-week summer Dental Admission Test (DAT) review and study skills assessment. Students will enroll in upper division science courses during the academic year and participate in seminars, clerkships and observational experiences at community dental clinics. Offering facilitation services (application assistance, interview workshops, counseling, DAT review, and financial aid information) for students enrolled at targeted universities and colleges.
* Providing academic assistance and counseling support for disadvantaged students enrolled in each first year dental class. Tutoring will be available to targeted students and scheduled at least twice-weekly during the academic year. Academic, financial aid and personal counseling will also be provided. Academic progress will be monitored using a formal reporting system consisting of student progress reports from faculty.
* Recruiting and enrolling 40 disadvantaged students from three partnership high schools to participate in a six-week summer science enrichment program designed to increase proficiency in math and chemistry. Students will participate in skill building seminars designed to improve study skills, reading comprehension, test taking, and note taking skills. Students will participate in career exploration, clinical mentorships, research experiences, and attend presentations by practicing health professionals.
* Recruiting 30 disadvantaged students to participate in an eight-week summer enrichment program (Undergraduate Mentorship Program-UMP) designed to strengthen their basic science (biology and chemistry) background, and exposure to clinical dentistry and research. Students will also participate in seminars designed to improve study habits, reading comprehension, stress management, test and note taking skills, and career explorations.
"The concept of the Dental Careers Program," Alexander says, "is not to stifle creativity, but to reward it."
For more information about the UCSF School of Dentistry Dental Careers Program, please call Charles J. Alexander, PhD, at (415) 476-1323 or email: Alexanderc@dentistry.ucsf.edu. For the summer program, please call Prescilla Bradshaw, DMD, director of student development and recruitment at (415) 476-3151 or Bradshawp@dentistry.ucsf.edu.