Components of Effective Outreach and Recruitment Programs for Underrepresented Minority and Low-Income Dental Students

Using various combinations of focused approaches, dental schools increased enrollment of underrepresented minority (URM) and low-income (LI) students by 25 percent, according to this chapter in a supplement to the Journal of Dental Education.

Poor dental health among U.S. minority and low-income communities is well documented and suggests a need for better representation of minorities in the dental workforce. This article describes approaches used by the 15 dental schools that participated in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Pipeline, Profession and Practice: Community-Based Dental Education program.

Key Findings:

  • During Phase I of the Pipeline program, total enrollment of URM first-year students in Pipeline schools increased from 184 in 2003 to 246 students in 2007. This represents an increase from 16 to 20 percent in those first-year classes.
  • Although schools used various combinations of approaches, all programs involved hard work, extensive planning and institutional support.
  • Key infrastructural and organizational approaches involved: school, admission and institutional-level mission statements that target diversity; high-level leadership and support at the institutional, school and program levels; and collaborative recruitment programs between the offices of dental school admissions, student affairs/services, and diversity.
  • Schools increased the effectiveness and reduced the costs of recruiting by establishing partnerships with medical schools and regional dental school cooperatives.
  • Student-centered efforts included: financial aid dedicated to support URM and LI dental students; mentoring programs linking prospective students with current students, faculty and practitioners; and outreach to introduce dental careers to middle and high school students.

In this article from a special issue of the Journal of Dental Education, authors note these best practices now must be instituted at other dental schools. But they fear current economic challenges will spur cuts in diversity efforts. They urge continued commitment to the creation of a diversified dental workforce.