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Addressing Diversity - Dentistry

"Impressions" is a Student National Dental Association program that provides support to potential dental students by offering a way for college students to learn more about careers in dentistry and the dental school application process.

Impressions provides a way for potential dental school applicants from underrepresented groups to visit dental schools; hold meetings with students and faculty members; gain valuable insight into the admissions process, dental school curriculum, the Dental Admissions Test and financial aid programs; and sometimes engage in mock interviews for as a way to prepare for the admissions process. Participants say Impressions has opened dentistry as a career choice to health-profession oriented students who never would have thought a career in dentistry possible.

The program is just one example of a wide-range of initiatives undertaken by dental students and organizations like the SNDA, the Hispanic Student Dental Association, the Society of American Indian Dentists Student Chapter and the American Student Dental Association to increase the number of underrepresented minorities who seek careers in dentistry.

The ADA’s Student Ambassador Program brings these groups and other national organizations together to provide a forum to initiate and expand student-to-student recruitment activities like Impressions. With funding from GlaxoSmithKline, the Student Ambassador Program held its annual meeting in October 2008 during the ADA annual session in San Antonio, with US dental schools sponsoring 58 student ambassadors.

The Council on Dental Education’s Career Guidance and Diversity Activities Committee began the Student Ambassador Program with the recognition that dental students from underrepresented groups are powerful mentors for college and high school students from similar backgrounds who may be considering a career in the health professions. Many dental students — especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds — have often had to overcome significant obstacles in gaining admission to dental school. Now entering its fourth year, the Student Ambassador Program is moving toward emphasizing collaboration between students and dental school admissions offices and college prehealth advisors.

The most recent meeting of the student ambassadors provided an opportunity for the ambassadors to partner with health advisors and build on the awareness that both groups share similar goals and values in promoting dentistry as a profession. Representatives of the National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions served as panelists during the meeting — sharing information on the advising process and offering ways to work together to promote dentistry. Ideas like implementing regional meetings between advisors and ambassadors, communicating with advisors through their national publications and referring requests for dentistry career presentations to local ambassadors were all discussed.

Advisors to the Health Professions can access ambassador contact information at the Advisor Member only site.

For more information on the Student Ambassador Program, contact Beverly Skoog, career guidance programs liaison at the ADA at skoogb@ada.org.

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