As part of its Driving Greater Diversity in the Oral Health Workforce campaign, the Delta Dental Institute announced the inaugural award recipients of over $700,000 from the Delta Dental Oral Health Diversity Fund, the first national investment fund focused on ensuring more school-aged children from historically underrepresented groups consider careers in oral health. The four awardees are: Diversity in Dentistry Mentorships, the Hispanic Dental Association, NAF, and the Society of American Indian Dentists.
“As the nation’s oral health leader and its largest oral health philanthropist, Delta Dental embraces the opportunity to address the needs of the diverse communities we serve and to contribute to more equitable health outcomes,” says James W. Hutchison, president & CEO of Delta Dental Plans Association. “Our inaugural group of awardees will help ensure our future dental professionals more closely represent the communities they serve, so that all Americans can have better oral and overall health.”
Research has shown that racial and ethnic diversity among health professionals is linked to better patient satisfaction and improved health outcomes. However, the current oral health workforce does not reflect that diversity; fewer than 10 percent of dentists are Black or Hispanic, while those same groups comprise more than 30 percent of the U.S. population. The funded programs propose innovative ways to address the barriers that underrepresented populations face in seeking oral health careers.
The inaugural award recipients of the Delta Dental Oral Health Diversity Fund are:
- Diversity in Dentistry Mentorships, whose Diversify Dentistry Youth Summit™, offers high school students from underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds hands-on experiences, educational insights, and mentorship to inspire them to consider a career in dentistry. The Diversify Dentistry Youth Summit™ toolkit will be expanded to serve as a guide for dental schools to host similar events.
- Hispanic Dental Association, whose program, BOLD: Building Our Leaders in Dentistry, is a pre-dental school mentorship program designed to introduce dentistry as a career option to students and influence more underrepresented minorities to enter the profession. Outreach presentations and workshops will be geared toward Head Start, elementary school, high school, and undergraduate students.
- NAF, whose program, Promoting Oral Health Pathways, will be a newly-established curriculum within their Academy of Health Sciences. This new program will include authentic, project-based learning activities that can be applied to solve challenges impacting a student’s career field or community, along with opportunities to take part in immersive, work-based learning with experts while developing skills to make informed decisions about their futures.
- Society of American Indian Dentists, whose program, Telling the Story of a Path to Dentistry: Connecting AI/AN Dentists with AI/AN Youth, will address the lack of dentist role models in American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities. Volunteer AI/AN dentists, armed with tailored materials, will present to Native students in their community high schools, sharing their unique journeys to becoming dentists, and inspiring more Native youth to consider and work toward a career in dentistry.
“By investing in organizations that are building opportunities for youth from diverse communities to consider and prepare for a career in oral health, Delta Dental aims to close an important gap in the oral health workforce and improve health equity,” says Jason Daughn, Delta Dental Plans Association’s chief public affairs officer on behalf of the Delta Dental Institute. “We were impressed by the passion and creativity of the applicants to the Delta Dental Oral Health Diversity Fund and look forward to supporting our awardees.”The next round of applications for the Delta Dental Oral Health Diversity Fund will open in the Spring of 2024. Visit www.deltadentalinstitute.com/fund to learn more.