On October 5, 2004, the University of Michigan School of Dentistry launched a new program for minority faculty recruitment and development. The Michigan Gateway to Minority Dental Faculty Development Program (MDFDP) is part of an ongoing effort to achieve diversity, equity, and multicultural value at the University of Michigan at all levels of academic attainment. With the school committed to ending existing disparities among faculty and staff, the Gateway program is an outgrowth of these efforts.
The Gateway program is one of seven American Dental Education Association/W.K. Kellogg Minority Dental Faculty Development (MDFD) grants to U.S. dental schools. Other grants were awarded to the University of Oklahoma, Howard University, Baylor College of Dentistry, University of Alabama, University of Illinois at Chicago, and the New York State Academic Dental Centers, a consortium comprised of the University of Rochester Eastman Dental Center, Columbia University, New York University, SUNY-Buffalo, and SUNY-Stony Brook.
“The seven MDFD grants create a dynamic network for the recruitment of junior faculty that can be shared with all U.S. dental schools. In addressing issues related to underrepresented minority/low-income faculty recruitment, these grants provide models that can be shared not only with dental schools but with other academic units across the university spectrum,” said Dr. Frank Catalanotto, ADEA President.
MDFD funding is to be used primarily for direct educational assistance to underrepresented minority (URM) students and faculty entering dental academic careers and to establish academic partnerships that facilitate advanced training and career development. Funds may be used for low-income candidates defined by the HRSA/Title VII of the Public Health Service Act as “disadvantaged.” Grantee institutions will create formal mentoring programs, academic partnerships, and community-based practices and projects that attract, nurture, and support underrepresented minority/low-income academicians and researchers.
The Gateway at Michigan is designed to increase the diversity of faculty in academic dentistry and create a greater sense of community among predoctoral and postdoctoral students and faculty. The program will utilize available opportunities at Michigan to foster and enrich participants through “mentor families,” which include a URM predoctoral student, postdoctoral student, and dental faculty member.
To establish a pool of qualified candidates for faculty positions, the Gateway Future Faculty Organization (GFFO) will be developed. As GFFO members, students will be involved in administrative, academic, research, teaching, and outreach activities during their matriculation through dental school or their advanced training programs. GFFO members will also have a postgraduate and faculty mentor. One program fellow will be selected from the GFFO during the D3 year. New faculty hires from the GFFO will be eligible for loan forgiveness and professional development support.
MDFD funding at Michigan will also be directed to student scholarships and postgraduate fellow support. Third-year dental students will compete for the Gateway Scholar Award ($6,000). Selected by a committee of faculty, the recipient will commit to pursuing a faculty position upon graduation. In addition, eligible dentists may apply for the Advanced Training Gateway Fellow Award. These fellows will receive a Gateway Fellow Award (up to $17,000) for educational costs, participate as a leader of the GFFO student organization, present at national conferences, and commit to pursuing a faculty position.
Dr. Jeanne Sinkford, ADEA Associate Executive Director for Equity and Diversity, attended the kick-off ceremony for the Gateway Program at Michigan. In addressing the assembly, she commended the university’s historic commitment to diversity and multiculturalism. The University of Michigan, she noted, has a solid reputation for promoting optimal oral health in a culturally sensitive manner through education, research, and service. As one of the oldest schools in the country, it has earned a reputation for innovation and excellence, receiving 31 commendations in all of its programs during the recent accreditation review. Black Enterprise magazine recently rated the university one of the top institutions in the United States for minorities in pursuit of higher education.
In addition, Dr. Sinkford noted the importance of this inaugural event occurring in the year of the 50th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision. That 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling struck down legal segregation in the nation’s public schools and has affected diversity policies in all aspects of American life. Recently, she said, the court’s decision on the Grutter/Gratz challenge to the University of Michigan’s admissions policies catapulted the university into the national spotlight. The successful defense of the admissions plan, however, reestablished the importance of race as one of many considerations in admissions practices and established diversity as a “compelling national interest.”
In his comments to the general assembly, Dean Peter Polverini said, “This program is part of continuing efforts of this dental school and the university to achieve diversity, equity, and multicultural value in all levels of academic attainment. We believe this faculty development program will position the dental school to assume an important leadership role in advancing the academic careers of women and underrepresented minorities.”
In her concluding remarks, Dr. Sinkford cited “the importance of this grant in the development of models that will benefit not only the dental school at Michigan, but the university itself and other dental schools and institutions throughout the nation. The successful elements of this model can be applied to future faculty recruitment in a broad context which is a major challenge to all of dental education.”
Drs. Marilyn Woolfolk and Todd Ester are codirectors of the Gateway Program at Michigan. Dr. Sinkford is the principal investigator of the ADEA MDFD program, and Drs. Richard W. Valachovic and Richard Weaver are co-investigators. Questions regarding the MDFD program should be addressed to Sonja Harrison at harrisons@ADEA.org.