Campus News

UB launches pipeline program to increase diversity in dentistry

Arian Johnson.

Destination Dental School was conceived by UB dental student Arian Johnson, who encountered difficulties applying to dental school. Photo: University at Buffalo


Published January 12, 2021

“I realized there was a lack of resources for students like myself. As an undergraduate student, I had some advisement but I needed more guidance. ”
Arian Johnson, Fourth-year student
School of Dental Medicine

To increase enrollment of underrepresented students, the School of Dental Medicine has launched Destination Dental School, an initiative that aims to remove barriers to careers in dentistry for students of color.

Destination Dental School is open nationwide to all underrepresented undergraduate students interested in a career in dentistry, and will provide participants with hands-on simulation activities and research projects, access to mentorship from UB dental students and faculty, dental school application assistance, and networking opportunities with local dentistry leaders.

The free program, which will run on Saturdays from June 4 through July 31, will also sponsor eligible participating students for their Dental Admission Test — a standardized exam required for entry into dental school.

Destination Dental School is accepting applications. Students are encouraged to apply online by Feb. 28.

The program was conceived by UB dental student and Buffalo native Arian Johnson, who encountered difficulties applying to dental school.

“I realized there was a lack of resources for students like myself. As an undergraduate student, I had some advisement but I needed more guidance. I didn’t know the right classes to take, my timeline was off, I didn’t take the right test prep, and my professors wouldn’t give me a recommendation,” says Johnson, now a fourth-year dental student.

Latino, African American and Native American people make up around 5%, 4% and 1% of dentists, respectively, despite representing a larger percentage of the U.S. population, according to the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute.

Pipeline programs have proven to be an effective solution, increasing enrollment of underrepresented students in dental schools by 54%, according to a report by the Journal of the American Dental Association.

“Disparities in oral health and health care are realities that were only highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. By increasing diversity in our student body and, eventually, in dental practitioners, we can better serve our diverse community,” says Dana M. Keblawi, associate dean for diversity and inclusion in the School of Dental Medicine. “Increasing the number of underrepresented students in dentistry will improve access to oral health care in underserved communities.”

To make Destination Dental School a reality, Johnson gathered support from Shanna Crump-Owens, director of the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP), and joined the School of Dental Medicine’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee — a group of faculty, staff and students collaborating to foster an environment of inclusive excellence and achieve the school’s diversity and inclusion strategic goals.