Toward Diversity in Dentistry

UB’s Destination Dental School is recognized as an exemplary program for supporting underrepresented students in STEM.

dental students in masks practicing cleaning.

UB’s Destination Dental School is less than two years old. Yet the special summer program has already won a national award for carrying out its mission: removing barriers to careers in dentistry for underrepresented students.

Launched by a UB dental school student, Destination Dental School is free and open to underrepresented undergraduate and post-baccalaureate students nationwide interested in a career in dentistry. The eight-week hybrid program provides participants with hands-on simulation activities and research projects; clinical rotations; access to mentorship from UB dental students and faculty; dental school application assistance; preparation for the Dental Admission Test; and networking opportunities with local dentistry leaders.

Fixing a “lack of resources for students like myself”

Founder Arian Johnson (DDS ’21) conceived of the program after she encountered difficulties when applying to dental school.

“I realized there was a lack of resources for students like myself,” said Johnson. “As an undergraduate student, I had some advisement but I needed more guidance. I didn’t know the right classes to take, my timeline was off, I didn’t take the right test prep, and my professors wouldn’t give me a recommendation.”

Such issues contribute to the problem of underrepresentation in dentistry. Latino, African American and Native American people make up around 5%, 4% and 1% of dentists, respectively, despite representing larger percentages of the U.S. population, according to the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute.

“The racial and ethnic diversity of the oral health care workforce remains disturbingly insufficient to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse population in the United States,” said program director Wendell Carmona. “Destination Dental School proudly and effectively addresses these obstacles.”

National recognition

The program, which recently graduated its second cohort of students from across the United States, was named a recipient of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine’s 2022 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award. INSIGHT Into Diversity is the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education.

“We know that many STEM programs are not always recognized for their success, dedication and mentorship for underrepresented students,” said Lenore Pearlstein, owner and publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity. “We are proud to honor these programs as role models to other institutions of higher education and beyond.”

For more information on Destination Dental School or to apply to the 2023 class, visit the program’s website.