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ADEA Access, Diversity and Inclusion Portfolio — June 2015

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The ADEA Access, Diversity and Inclusion portfolio (ADEA ADI) reported that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) recently released the results of an external evaluation of the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP). SMDEP is a free six-week residential academic enrichment program for rising sophomore or junior students of minority or economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The key finding from the evaluation is the program’s success—SMDEP scholars are about three times more likely to apply to dental school, and nearly twice as likely to be accepted, than nonparticipant peers. SMDEP, which is funded by RWJF, is a partnership between the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and ADEA. Dr. Rick Valachovic serves as one of two of the program’s Program Directors and is responsible for supervising and providing strategic leadership for all ADEA related activities in collaboration with AAMC. Dr. Mark A. López  on the ADEA ADI staff is the program’s Dental Deputy Director and provides leadership around enhancing and representing the program’s dental component and engagement. 

The evaluation also found that the SMDEP is successfully reaching its target student population. Participants are more likely than nonparticipants to be from a minority group, report low family income levels, self-identify as disadvantaged and have parents who did not complete college. Importantly, the majority of participants (67%) stay on the path to a potential career in health care and earn a bachelor’s degree in a health- or science-related field. 

SMDEP’s goal is to help dental and medical schools diversify by increasing their acceptance rates of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. More than half (55%) of SMDEP alum apply to a medical or dental school and 38% matriculate into a medical or dental school. SMDEP participants at program sites with a dental component are 14% more likely to apply to dental school than comparison students. Today, underrepresented minorities account for roughly 9% of practicing dentists, although they make up about 30% of all college students.  The program is reaching its goal of helping students become more competitive applicants to medical and dental schools. 

Specific site program characteristics such as staffing, clinical experiences and leadership approaches impacted students’ dental school applications and matriculation. Most sites offer clinical experiences, such as shadowing a physician or dentist, and these experiences positively impact student outcomes in terms of dental school applications and matriculation. The study found that students at SMDEP sites with less clinical exposure apply to and matriculate in dental schools at higher rates—more clinical exposure takes time away from activities that are more relevant to dental school. Sites where leadership is non-collaborative across program components (medical and dental), meaning they are led by either the dental or medical staff, have better outcomes in dental school applications and matriculation. Both leadership approaches on average are associated with positive outcomes; however, the non-collaborative approach was found to be most effective for dental school matriculation.

Duggan Dental