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Elevating dentistry through diversity

Thursday, July 15, 2021 | Posted in GEHA Connection Dental Network News

Over the past year, many societal issues have surfaced during the global COVID-19 crisis, including a heightened awareness of racism, exclusion and poverty. Such movements have reinforced the need to address our own health care system and the importance of adapting to ever-changing societal values. While strides have been made in the past few decades to diversify the dentist workforce, there is still much work to be done; the diversification of dentists has not been uniform across all races and ethnicities. Although there has been a decrease in white dentists and an increase in Asian and Hispanic dentists, there has been no increase of Black dentists in the past 15 years. Data on dental school admissions in the United States reflect a similar trend of diversification in dentistry over time, with an increase of female, Hispanic and Asian dentists, but little change in the proportion of Black dentists. The American Dental Education Association has created a diversity toolkit aimed at improving diversity and inclusion of dental faculty, but there are many underlying societal barriers that still need to be addressed. The private and public schools that produce students for health care education are also challenged in diversifying their student populations. Surely more can be done by community and dental leaders to address the issues that give rise to such racial disparities. Having a more diverse dental workforce can help address racial and ethnic health disparities, improve patient and community-centered care, and enrich the pool of policy makers. Examining institutional culture, privilege, implicit bias and creating a supportive environment for faculty and students is necessary to improve the inclusivity of all educational settings and create a more effective health care delivery system. Source: Wright, J. T., Vujicic, M., & Frazier-Bowers, S. (2021, April 1). Elevating dentistry through diversity. The Journal of The American Dental Association.