ADEA and W.K. Kellogg Foundation Program Inspires Dentist to Launch Program for Disadvantaged Youth

Melanie E. Mayberry, D.D.S., M.B.A.Melanie E. Mayberry, D.D.S., M.B.A., was born and raised in Detroit, MI. Her father was a dentist but she did not develop her interest in dentistry until after a high school counselor took an interest in her and advised that a biology major would broaden her career options. She had no idea that this early exposure would lead to her dental career, passion for underserved children and the founding of the Urban Impressions program, a mentorship program for seventh and eighth graders from Detroit middle schools. 

Dr. Mayberry is a product of the Detroit Public Schools system. She received her D.D.S. from Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry in 1994 and completed a General Practice Residency at the University of Michigan’s Medical Hospital. She fulfilled her National Health Service Corps obligation through practice at a community health center in Saginaw. At that time, she saw the absence of focused care for special needs adult and pediatric patients. Her collaborative efforts at St. Mary’s Hospital in Saginaw led to the establishment of an operating room program in the hospital for special needs and pediatric patients. After her father died, Dr. Mayberry returned to Detroit, reopened his practice and joined the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry (UDM SOD) in 2006 as a full-time faculty member. She continues to practice part time. 

Dr. Mayberry attributes her career development to the structured mentoring and career opportunities she received through the ADEA/W.K. Kellogg Foundation Minority Dental Faculty Development (ADEA MDFD) program. The ADEA MDFD program has exposed her to new experiences and helped develop her interest in mentoring disadvantaged youth in neighboring communities. She also credits the environment at UDM SOD for allowing her to pursue a structured program of career development that included participation in the ADA Institute for Diversity in Leadership Program. Dr. Mayberry says, “I would not have started my mentorship program without it.” 

She also reflects on the value of the ADEA Leadership Institute and the importance of her exposure to legislative policy making. She considers her “Hill visit” with the ADEA Leadership Institute an “awesome experience” that awakened her to the fact that she “needed more tools” to pursue her interest in diversity policy development and grass roots advocacy. This awareness led to Dr. Mayberry’s pursuit of a master’s degree in health care management from the Harvard University School of Public Health. Her training at Harvard was made possible through the ADEA MDFD program. 

Dedicating all of her free time to helping youth in the communities that surround UDM SOD and with no funding, Dr. Mayberry launched Urban Impressions in 2008. Urban Impressions began as her graduate project for the ADA Institute for Diversity. It started as a youth mentorship initiative that exposed local seventh and eighth graders to dentistry and other health professions. Dr. Mayberry attributes the success of the program to the guidance counselor at Spain Elementary School, support from the Department of Patient Management at UDM SOD, off-campus volunteers, other dental faculty and all the dental students who interact with the middle school students during their dental school visits. Approximately 130 students have completed the program since its inception.  

Dr. Mayberry values the ADEA MDFD program for the leadership training she received and her experience at Harvard. “It was intense and very structured with focus on growth and development.” She names Mert Aksu, D.D.S., J.D., Dean of UDM SOD, and her Department Chair, Diane Hoelscher, D.D.S., M.S., as “critical to her mentoring, focus and access.” She credits other colleagues at UDM SOD for their mentorship and the supportive environment provided at UDM SOD.

Dr. Mayberry feels that she creates a connection with the students that she mentors because she grew up in the same neighborhood and went to the same school that many of them will attend in the future. Her advice to her students: “Take advantage of opportunities. Create your own opportunities and be open because mentoring comes in all shapes and forms.” 

This article was first published in the August 2016 edition of the ADEA
  Bulletin of Dental Education