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Dental School Focuses on Increasing Native American Enrollment

Dental School Focuses on Increasing Native American Enrollment

An insufficient number of minority dentists is compounding the nation’s persistent racial and ethnic oral health disparities, according to the Surgeon General’s recent report.

Creighton University School of Dentistry is addressing this issue head on. The school recently received a $200,000 national grant to increase underrepresented minorities in dentistry. This 27-month grant, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Dental Pipeline program, targets recruitment of Native American students into the nation’s Jesuit dental schools. Creighton, one of eight U. S. schools to receive funds nationally as part of the Dental Pipeline’s second round of funding, has worked with two other Jesuit universities on this program.

“Native American populations have some of the highest needs for dental services yet have great difficulty in accessing these services, “ said Frank Ayers, D. D. S., F. A. C. D., associate dean for student affairs and director of admissions and principle investigator of the grant. “Only about 30 Native American students enroll in our nation’s 56 dental schools…fewer than one per school. Research shows that dental students from underserved areas are most likely to return to those areas to serve unmet dental needs,” he added.

Creighton’s leadership in recruitment and outreach with underserved populations emanates directly from Jesuit values and principles.

“As a Jesuit Catholic university we are acutely attuned to the mission of the Society of Jesus, continually renewing ourselves so that the contribution we make as a university benefits the common good and the needs of those on the margins of society, within an ever growing global perspective,”said the Rev. John P. Schlegel, S.J., Creighton University president.

The Jesuits have a long history of working with Native Americans at Creighton. In 2007, 53 Native American students are enrolled as full-time students. The University also provides medical, dental, pharmaceutical and other health services programs at reservations in Nebraska and South Dakota. The program offers Native American students an opportunity to attend a month-long summer enrichment program that exposes them to a career in dentistry. Creighton will also expand its pre-dental post-baccalaureate program for disadvantaged students to include three Native American students each year. After completion of the 13-month program, these students will enter dental school. Both programs provide scholarship money to these disadvantaged to boost enrollment.

As part of this effort, Creighton will also partner with two other Jesuit universities—Marquette and Gonzaga─ to encourage Native American undergraduate students to consider a career in dentistry.

If interested in these programs please contact Kelly Gould, program manager, for more information at (402) 280-5912.

About Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, we work with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years we've brought experience, commitment and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those we serve. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.