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Attracting More Students from Diverse Backgrounds to Dentistry

Dr. Norman Clement Gifts $75,000 to Encourage Efforts

Ann Arbor, MI — March 4, 2015 — A renewed effort is underway at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry to attract more underrepresented minorities (URM) and students from diverse backgrounds to dental education at Michigan and a career in the dental profession.

The drive has gained new momentum as a result of a confluence of four important developments.

The first is a determined effort by the school’s leadership to attract qualified URM students to the School of Dentistry as part of its strategic plan. 

The second is the formation of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the hiring of Dr. Todd Ester (DDS 1994) as its director. 

The third is enthusiastic support among alumni from diverse backgrounds who earned dental degrees at U-M and who have also made significant contributions to organized dentistry.  Their support and enthusiasm have been boosted with a generous gift from a School of Dentistry alumnus.

The fourth is an annual banquet organized by the Michigan chapter of the Student National Dental Association to honor the memory of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Attracting Dental Students from Diverse Backgrounds

Dean Laurie McCauley is committed to increasing the number of underrepresented minorities and students from diverse backgrounds to the U-M School of Dentistry.

Since 2006, there has been a decline of approximately 30-40 percent in the number of URM and students from diverse backgrounds, according to Ester.  This follows Michigan voter approval in November 2006 of the Civil Rights Initiative (Proposal 2).  It amended the state’s constitution to ban public institutions from discriminating against or giving preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on their race, general, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public education, public employment or public contracting.

Also influencing the decline in URM and diverse background student enrollment is the cost of dental education.  First-year dental students who live in Michigan currently pay nearly $30,000 in tuition and fees.  For out-of-state students, the cost is more than $46,600.  Books, instruments and lab fees add approximately $7,000 to those costs.

As a part of the university’s Victors for Michigan fundraising campaign, the school has set a goal of raising $11 million for student scholarships and fellowships.  The Dr. Lee Jones Scholarship is among those needing support from alumni during the fundraising campaign.

Office of Diversity and Inclusion

The University of Michigan and the School of Dentistry have a long-term history of providing opportunities to qualified students regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or religion.  Renamed the Office of Diversity and Inclusion last year, it was formerly known as the Office of Multicultural Affairs (1999-2013). 

Under Ester’s direction, the office works with the school’s Office of Student Affairs to recruit qualified students to the School of Dentistry and then counsels and mentors those admitted.  He co-directs the school’s Strategic Plan “People” initiative, which focuses on increasing the number of faculty, staff and students from diverse backgrounds.

Dr. Norman Clement’s $75,000 Gift

Dr. Norman Clement (DDS 1981) recently gifted $75,000 to create the Dr. Lee Jones Endowment for Dentistry Diversity Programs which will be used to re-start the Profile for Success (PFS) Program.  Jones (DDS 1961) was the school’s director of minority affairs for more than 25 years who retired in 1997.  Last fall, Jones received the school’s Distinguished Service Award for his contributions.

Introduced at the School of Dentistry in 1995, PFS was designed for college juniors and seniors from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds.  The six-week, on-campus program helped enhance study skills and prepare the students to successfully complete the Dental Admissions Test.  The program also helped to increase awareness of possible career options in the dental profession.

Nearly 400 students enrolled in Profiles for Success during the 19 years it was funded by Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  Results of the program show that 56 percent of participants graduated from a U.S. dental school; 36 percent received their dental degree from Michigan.  Due to a loss of funding, however, the school was unable to offer the program last year.

“Since the Profile for Success had a major beneficial impact on our school’s recruiting efforts, it was very important to re-establish this program,” says Ester.  “When I told some of our alumni how successful this program was, Dr. Clement responded in a way that surprised and encouraged many.”

During his dental education at U-M, Clement was mentored by Jones.  “Dr. Clement has always remembered that and wanted to find a way to say thank you.  Dr. Clement’s generous gift is his way of doing that,” Ester says.  “Because of his successful career in dentistry and pharmacy, Dr. Clement is looking to the future to find more ways to help support underrepresented minorities and students from diverse backgrounds,” Ester adds.  The Jones Endowment for Dentistry Diversity Programs will be used for that purpose.

King’s Feast

In January, the school’s Student National Dental Association (SNDA) hosted its 34th annual King’s Feast to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  During the “Building a Community of Unity” program, more than 30 alumni spoke to current students, faculty and staff about their U-M dental school education. 

Keynote speaker was Dr. Shelia Brown (DDS 1985), a former president of the National Dental Association and current member of the organization’s Board of Trustees.  She encouraged dental students “to take full advantage of the opportunities available on the U-M campus, stay connected to our alumni and to stay involved in organized dentistry.”

Recognized as distinguished alumni were Jones and Dr. Raymond Gist (DDS 1966), the first African-American president of both the Michigan Dental Association (2003-2004) and the American Dental Association (2010-2011).  He received the school’s Distinguished Service Award in 2010.

“Because of the generosity of Dr. Clement, the support of our alumni, the dedication of our dental students, faculty and staff, as well as the leadership of Dean McCauley, we are intensifying our efforts to attract more underrepresented minority students and students from diverse backgrounds to the University of Michigan School of Dentistry,” Ester said.  “I have every reason to believe we will succeed.”