Evaluation of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Pipeline, Profession & Practice

Community-Based Dental Education (formerly Dental Pipeline Program)

The Program Being Evaluated

The Pipeline, Profession and Practice: Community-Based Dental Education was the largest demonstration in the history of dental education and was designed to assist dental schools to increase access to dental care for underserved populations.

Launched in 2001, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Dental Pipeline program operated for over 10 years. Twenty-three dental schools participated in one of two rounds of the program: 19 schools were funded by a $23 million commitment from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Round 1 and 2, and four schools were funded by the California Endowment in Round 1 and 2. Dr. Denise Davis, a former Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program officer, oversaw the Dental Pipeline initiative that was directed by Howard Bailit, Professor Emeritus at the University of Connecticut Health Center.

About the Evaluation

The Dental Pipeline program had two goals:

1)    To increase recruitment and retention of students from racial and ethnic groups that are under-represented in dentistry; and

2)    To integrate community-based clinical experiences into the dental school curriculum.

Lessons Learned

The evaluation examines lessons learned from the 23 dental schools funded in the first round of the program and was led by Dr. Ronald Andersen, along with a multidisciplinary team of eminent dental educators and social scientists. Dr. Andersen is the Wasserman Professor Emeritus, former Chair of the Department of Health Services, School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles, and Principal Investigator on the National Evaluation Team for the Pipeline program; Dr. Davidson is Associate Professor, School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles, and Project Director and Co-Principal Investigator on the National Evaluation Team for the Pipeline program.

The evaluation team provided insights about:

  • gaining diversity in the dental profession;
  • increasing access to dental care in underserved areas; and
  • provided a model for comprehensive evaluation of an education program in the health professions.

In a special supplement to the Journal of Dental Education, contributing authors describe the evaluation of the Dental Pipeline program in detail, and synthesize the evaluation work into four areas that are intended to provide readers with a comprehensive understanding of the evaluation’s components.

1)    National program office perspectives;

2)    Explanation of evaluation development and implementation;

3)    14 case studies of Pipeline programs at U.S. dental schools; and

4)    Issues of sustainability and effects.


After nearly 10 years of funding and two rounds of multi-year programming, the Pipeline project more than doubled the days that students and residents spent in community-based settings; substantially increased enrollment of under-represented minorities; and facilitated the integration of cultural competency coursework into the dental school curriculum. Most importantly, the necessary framework was put into place for all dental schools to continue working together to achieve Pipeline program goals.

While the National Program Office that was located at Columbia University Medical Center no longer provides consultative services regarding the Pipeline program, the Pipeline Profession & Practice website is still live and shares best practices and publications on topics of importance to the field.