Bulletin of Dental Education

Bringing Smiles Dental Enrichment Program

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The future oral health workforce must be equipped with the knowledge and experience to improve access and outcomes for underserved populations. The gap in oral health disparities continues to grow, while diversity among dental health professionals remains relatively stagnant. In a 2016 ADEA survey, only 15.2% of dental school applicants were from underrepresented and marginalized (URM) backgrounds.

In the fall of 2018, the Department of Pediatric Dentistry at NYU College of Dentistry (NYU Dentistry) launched the Bringing Smiles Dental Enrichment Program (BSDEP). BSDEP is a pipeline program that supports and prepares individuals who are underrepresented in dentistry for successful application and matriculation into dental school. The program is supported by a predoctoral training grant from the Health Resources Services Administration under Courtney Chinn, D.D.S., M.P.H.

Dental Lab Day 2019

The Director of BSDEP is Rose Amable, D.D.S., a board-certified pediatric dentist and Clinical Assistant Professor at NYU Dentistry. Dr. Amable is a first-generation immigrant and a self-proclaimed product of pipeline programs. She has dedicated her career in academia to supporting and mentoring students from diverse backgrounds as they navigate the difficult path to becoming a dentist. The program is also supported by Michelle Goldstein, D.M.D., Samantha Shrager and several faculty and student mentors from NYU Dentistry.

Each academic semester, BSDEP recruits five interns to participate in the program. Interns participate in the following components:

  1. Community-based clinical experience at a school-based comprehensive care dental program located within New York City public schools.
  2. Mentorship from URM faculty and students.
  3. Bi-weekly seminars and workshops that help prepare interns for dental school. Topics include DAT preparation, application preparation, personal statements, scholarships and loans, mock interviews and study skills.
  4. Didactic experience and exposure to the dental school learning environment by attending virtual courses alongside dental students.

 A unique aspect of BSDEP is that it prioritizes applicants who are in the final stages of preparing for their dental school applications. The program was designed to provide hands-on support to students throughout the application process. These final stages can be particularly challenging for students who are the first in their families to attend college and do not have mentorship and support from other sources.

In response to COVD-19, BSDEP transitioned to an entirely virtual program in March 2020. Although interns are missing out on some aspects of the community-based experience, the silver lining is the program has been able to expand programming, workshops and guest speaker presentations. In addition, the virtual nature of the program has allowed the program to expand its reach outside of the New York City/New Jersey area and recruit interns from all over the country.

Fall 2019 Cohort Note: This photo was taken in 2019,
prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since 2018, 29 individuals have participated in the internship with 11 being accepted into dental school. The remaining are currently interviewing or applying for next cycle. As the program grows, and the interns enroll in schools across the country, the BSDEP network of alumni and mentors continues to strengthen. All of the past interns have continued to stay connected and have transitioned into the role of mentor for new predental students. The vision is the BSDEP network will not only help prepare students to matriculate into dental school, but will continue to support their success throughout their time in school and their careers.

To learn more about BSDEP, please visit the program website.

Courtesy of Samantha Shrager, Outreach Program Administrator, NYU College of Dentistry, Department of Pediatric Dentistry

Published on March 10, 2021

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