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Pipeline Programs Can Increase Diversity in Dentistry

Introducing pipeline programs for high school students can go a long way in addressing the underrepresentation of minorities in dentistry, a New York University study has found.

Published in the September issue of Journal of Dental Education, the study found that early exposure to the field through the pipeline program was essential for motivating a student to take up dentistry as their career.

The finding was substantiated through the pipeline program, Saturday Academy, started by two students at NYU College of Dentistry for underrepresented and low-income high school students to boost their interest in dentistry.

“Saturday Academy has been effective in reaching underrepresented minority and low-income high school students to achieve its mission: increased understanding of the college application process and increased interest in the health professions, particularly dentistry, among participants,” said Eugenia Mejia, assistant dean for admissions and enrollment management at NYU College of Dentistry.

According to the American Dental Education Association figures, the dentistry profession is struggling to maintain diversity. In 2016, only 15.2 percent of dental school applicants were underrepresented minorities which ultimately affects the communities in need who are well served by the minorities themselves.

Researchers surveyed most of the students who took part in Saturday Academy and found 93 percent enrolled in four-year colleges or universities with 71 percent interested in the health profession and 47 percent wanted to pursue dentistry as a career.

“The results of our pilot study suggest that Saturday Academy is a successful example of a pipeline program to increase the future representation of underrepresented minorities in the dental profession by addressing barriers to pursuing a career in the health professions,” Lorel Burns, who co-founded Saturday Academy as a dental student said.

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