Dental Pipeline Program Graduate Becomes a Public Health Dentist

Leah Tate, DDS

Synopsis of Work: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) launched the national program Pipeline, Profession & Practice: Community-Based Dental Education (more commonly known as the Dental Pipeline program) in 2001 to help dental schools increase access to dental care for underserved populations. Over five academic years (2002–03 to 2006–07), 15 dental schools (four of which were funded by the California Endowment).

Story Told: Leah Tate, D.D.S., grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and was an undergraduate biology major at Spelman College. After college, not sure of what was next, this Black woman moved back to Columbus and tried substitute teaching. Although she enjoyed it, she found it was not her calling.

Then, she said, "I explored dentistry. I shadowed dentists I knew and then started to pursue dental education." Tate connected with Ohio State University's College of Dentistry, one of 15 schools participating in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) Pipeline, Profession & Practice.

Tate started working in a public health clinic after graduating from Ohio State's College of Dentistry. "In my current job I see everybody: Medicaid, Medicare, other insurance, no insurance," she said. "The youngest patients are 3 years old and go up to very elderly patients and also special needs patients and patients who are medically compromised. It is a very diverse population and I really enjoy it. I would like eventually to work in private practice, but not now. I would love to have my own clinic someday, if I could get the money, and run it myself."