Since its inception in 2004, the
ADEA/W.K. Kellogg Foundation Minority Dental Faculty Development (ADEA MDFD) program has been unparalleled in its efforts to achieve diversity, equity and multicultural value in dental education. As a result of several rounds of funding by the Kellogg Foundation, 14 dental
schools across the United States have used these grants to develop, mentor and support underrepresented minority students and faculty entering academic careers. The bonds established by the partnerships that the program funds facilitate advanced training, career development and community outreach.
The true value of the ADEA MDFD program is realized through the ability to recruit and develop individuals such as Darnell Kaigler, Jr., D.D.S., Ph.D. Dr. Kaigler attended Morehouse College, deciding to pursue dentistry in his junior year. Following a research internship at the
beginning of his senior year, he wanted to incorporate research into his career plans and completed the joint D.D.S. /Ph.D. program at the
University of Michigan School of Dentistry (U-M SOD).
In his D3 year, Dr. Kaigler was selected to participate in the U-M Gateway Future Faculty Organization, which was designed to involve students in administrative, academic, research, teaching and outreach activities. The U-M Gateway program was supported by the first ADEA MDFD grant, which had a dental faculty
leadership development focus. A key aspect of the U-M Gateway program was its “mentor families,” each of which included an underrepresented minority predoctoral student, advanced dental education student and dental faculty member.
The Gateway program had two significant effects on Dr. Kaigler’s career development. As a mentee, it enabled him to identify and connect with faculty members—including Marilyn Woolfolk, D.D.S., M.P.H.; Todd Ester, D.D.S.; and George Taylor, D.M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H.—to gain a fuller understanding and
appreciation for what it means to be a faculty member. As a mentor, the program provided him with important experience by aligning him with students interested in teaching and allowing him to show them more about life as a junior faculty member.
As a junior faculty member, Dr. Kaigler is motivated by the desire to excel and strive for the success that his mentors have attained in their own careers. Offering advice to students and peers, Dr. Kaigler says, “one of the keys to success is being in an environment with resources, support and mentors that care.” Mentorship
is the key to success in the development of an academic career in dentistry, says Kenneth May, D.D.S., M.S., Director of Multicultural Affairs at the University of Michigan. He stresses the importance of having “a network of mentors, so they are not in silos. Postdoctoral students require peer mentors,
in addition to faculty mentors.”
The Kellogg Foundation awarded a $400,000 grant to the ADEA MDFD program in 2013 to enhance the formation of academic and community partnerships for dental health professionals. With this round of funding, the ADEA MDFD program is extending support to four additional institutions with dental hygiene programs allowing them to partner
with pilot schools in their communities. The program will continue to nurture students and junior faculty, encouraging a career in academic dentistry.