This chapter, written by co-director of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Pipeline, Profession and Practice: Community-Based Dental Education program, serves as an introduction to Chapters 9–12 in this special supplement of the Journal of Dental Education, and provides specific strategies to increase enrollment of underrepresented minority (URM) students in dentistry as gleaned from eight years of the program.
In focus groups at six universities, conducted in 2003, the first year of the Pipeline program, minority students gave high grades to summer enrichment and peer mentoring programs. They indicated however, that there were limited outreach efforts and that they felt alone and unsupported in a “White” environment where the faculty lacked diversity. The faculty saw high student debt, low test scores and a lack of exposure to the profession as barriers to enrolling URM dental students.
The 2006 focus group follow-up at four Pipeline schools included pre-dental students, recent graduates and faculty. URM numbers had increased due to the Pipeline program. Students cited heavy debt, lack of social support and inadequate promotion of dentistry in undergraduate schools as barriers they faced getting into dental school.
Revised accreditation standards for dental schools make promoting diversity a top priority. Chapters 9 through 12 suggest ways that all dental schools can take actions to meet this new standard.