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ATSU’s Mesa, Arizona campus hosts the 2022 Diversify Dentistry Youth Summit

A.T. Still University’s (ATSU) Department for Diversity and Inclusion’s Dreamline Pathways program and nonprofit organization Diversity in Dentistry partnered up for the 2022 Diversify Dentistry Youth Summit on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022. 

Fifty middle and high school students gathered at ATSU’s Mesa, Arizona, campus, where they spent the day with third- and fourth-year dental student mentors who gave them a glimpse into life as a dental student, while also providing representation for minority students. 

The Dreamline Pathways program aims to provide consistent resources and support for students that come from underserved areas. 

“We hope that while the students are on campus they are inspired by what they see and who they meet. We hope they dream of becoming a healthcare provider and choose ATSU as their top educational institution when they are ready to complete their academic career to become their desired healthcare professional,” said Stephanie McGrew, MHA, assistant director, diversity and inclusion. 

The students toured ATSU’s Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health, participated in a lesson on dental anatomy in the simulation clinic, and took part in a hands-on resin lab. At the end of the day, students were honored in their own white coat ceremony.

“Diversity matters, and being a Latina student doctor means a lot to me. When I see other people that share my background in higher positions that I aspire to be in, it motivates and encourages me,” said Andrea Morales, D3, one of the dental student mentors for the day. 

“I’m hoping by sharing my story a little bit, I’m able to encourage students that might not think they can make it into a professional school or a professional career. Hopefully if they see me up here and if we have shared experiences, they can believe in themselves and realize they can also do this,” she added. 

Diversity in Dentistry is a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the diversity pipeline from middle school to dental school. 

The racial disparities in dentistry are striking. In the United States, only 5.9% of dentists are Hispanic, 3.8% are Black, and 2.2% are American Indian, Alaska Native, and Pacific Islanders, according to data from Health Policy Institute

These statistics do not mirror that of the U.S. population, and this underrepresentation of minority populations in dentistry leads to inequitable oral health care and bias within the industry.

Partnerships with organizations such as Diversify Dentistry help the University fulfill its commitment to diversity.

“It’s important that we have not only a diverse student body, but we also have a diverse faculty. We need to let students know that there is an opportunity for them to get into professional programs, and we want to make sure that we put our best foot forward to show them that it is doable,” said Jeffery Parent, DDS, associate dean of patient care and clinic education at ATSU-ASDOH.

The Diversify Dentistry Youth Summit is not only a learning opportunity for the visiting middle and high school students, but also for the D3 and D4 student mentors themselves. 

“We try to instill in our students that it’s always going to be a lifelong learning experience. You’re going to be a mentor not only for your staff but you may be a mentor for other dentists as you progress and graduate,” Dr. Parent said.

Check out more photos from the event below!

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