University of Buffalo trailblazes a Pathway Program

Thikriat Al-Jewair, assistant dean of equity, diversity and inclusion UB School of Dental Medicine

Demographics of dental students and the dental workforce have shifted over time, however, disparities by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status continue to plague the profession. Individuals who identify as Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, American Indian/Alaskan Native, or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander are grossly underrepresented when compared with the population. In response, the University at Buffalo (UB) School of Dental Medicine (SDM) launched two nationwide pathway programs to remove barriers for underrepresented and disadvantaged students to enter the field and have a sustained impact on oral health care in America.

The Native American Pre-Dental Student Gateway (Gateway) program was founded in 2018 in partnership with the Seneca Nation Health System and sponsored by United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc. (USET), Native American Professional Parent Resources, Inc. (NAPPR), and the Southern Plains Tribal Health Board (SPTHB). Destination Dental School (DDS) was founded in 2021 and sponsored by the Phil Galeota family. Both programs introduced underrepresented and disadvantaged students to the profession.

In 2022, DDS and Gateway joined efforts to offer seven virtual sessions and a three-day intensive, in-person training program. Twenty-four fellows representing 17 U.S. states learned about the different disciplines of dentistry (including orthodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgery, pediatric dentistry, restorative dentistry, etc.) and participated in hands-on activities, DAT prep and dental school application sessions, and capstone research projects. Fellows received DAT study resources, reimbursement for a DAT test, a waived application fee to UB, and acceptance into a mentoring committee, necessary investments that aim to impact the future dental workforce and oral health care.

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