The first year that New York
University (NYU) College of Dentistry offered "Diversity,
Attitude and Health Beliefs," the course elicited shrugs and blank
faces. At least that's the recollection of its creator, Dr.
Frederick G. More, a Professor in the Department of Epidemiology
& Health Promotion and the Department of Pediatric Dentistry.
Not satisfied with the result, he decided that the following year
he would introduce a new element in his presentation.
The course already included a cultural
self-assessment. The students submitted their results, and these
were presented to the class, usually revealing some surprising
findings about the demographic make-up of the students and their
attitudes. The second time Dr. More offered the course, he decided
to share his own cultural self-assessment with the class. It
revealed that he is white, male, and over 60-"part of the old guard
in dentistry," as he likes to say-and it also revealed a less
visible dimension of his cultural attributes: Dr. More is gay.
While some professors might question the
wisdom of sharing such personal information with their students,
his bold move gave meaning to what many students previously viewed
as a hollow exercise.
"It prompted students to question their
assumptions," Dr. More reports. "For the first time there was
dialogue in the class. And I think the course is starting to create
an environment where students feel more comfortable about sharing
their differences with one another."
This is not the first time Dr. More has
gone out on a limb for something he believes in. As a pediatric
dentist in Michigan, he was active in advocating for and providing
dental services to children on Medicaid. In 1988, he became a Harry W. Bruce, Jr. Legislative Fellow,
gaining public policy experience in the ADEA offices in Washington.
He left with a clear understanding of the legislative process and a
conviction that having an impact was just a matter of "choosing to
do the work." At the beginning of this decade, he joined with three
other ADEA members to form a Special Interest Group that has since
become the Gay-Straight Alliance Section.
"My advocacy springs from my sense of
something lacking in the big picture in dentistry," Dr. More says.
Ultimately, he believes it comes down to how the profession treats
patients, whether they are the poor children he treated in
Michigan, the minority patients he sometimes sees in a
community-based practice in New York City, or adolescents whose
parents disapprove of their sexual orientation. All three are
groups identified as receiving less than adequate medical and
"In order to address disparities in care,
dentists need to be more mindful of the environment they create for
any patient they encounter. We also have a responsibility to
support our students, whatever their cultural make-up. I hope our
diversity course will start to achieve these goals," says Dr. More.
He plans to make it available on MedEdPORTAL some time next year.