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ATSU-ASDOH helps American Indian college students prepare for dental school

On Thursday, Feb. 1, the National Center for American Indian Health Professions, with the support of A.T. Still University’s Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-ASDOH), hosted the third-annual American Indian Pre-dental Admission Workshop (PAW). The purpose of PAW is to help American Indian college students who are preparing to apply to dental school navigate the application process and expand their professional networks. This year, 12 college students from across the country attended the free workshop. George Blue Spruce, DDS, MPH, assistant dean for American Indian Affairs at ATSU-ASDOH, welcomed them to campus.

According to the Society of American Indian Dentists (SAID), American Indian communities struggle with limited access to oral healthcare. In fact, SAID estimates there are fewer than 300 American Indian dentists serving a population of 5.2 million. Many of the students who participate in PAW plan to practice in the communities where they grew up, increasing access to quality dental care in rural American Indian communities.

In addition to preparing for the application process, PAW participants get hands-on experience in the dental simulation lab, one-on-one time with current dental students, and a tour of the dental school. ATSU-ASDOH even provides the aspiring dentists with professional headshots.

“We want students early in the process to understand what it is to become a dentist,” says Sarah Hill, a third-year student at ATSU-ASDOH who played a major role in planning the workshop. Hill received a grant from Running Strong for American Indian Youth to fund the event.

Running Strong has supported PAW for the past three years through its Dreamstarter grant program. Hill was this year’s recipient, while Cristin Haase, DMD, MPH, ’17 received the grant in 2015 and 2016.  Dr. Haase is now a dentist with the Indian Health Service and attended PAW this year as a presenter and mentor.

Mariana Dale, a reporter from KJZZ public radio, stopped by the workshop to chat with participants. Read her story here.

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