With Support From Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, ADEA Launches Initiative to Draw More Men of Color Into Health Professions

May 10, 2022—Supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) has kicked off a series of events aimed at developing and implementing solutions to the lack of men of color in the academic health professions. 

“We are honored that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recognized that ADEA is committed to playing a leading role in addressing this insidious problem—the paucity of men of color in the health professions,” said Sonya G. Smith, Ed.D., J.D., ADEA Chief Diversity Officer. “This is a problem that has significant ripple effects because it undermines broader efforts to improve health care in underserved and vulnerable communities.”

Immediate Release Contact  The foundation awarded ADEA a $50,000 base grant in support of work to identify solutions to aid in the recruitment, matriculation, retention and graduation of men of color in the health professions.

Data underscores the problem. For example, between 2011 and 2019, the percentage of dental school applicants from historically underrepresented racial and ethnic (HURE) groups increased only 2.2% on a compounded annual basis. Much of the research on men of color indicates that disparate outcomes for historically underrepresented men, in comparison with their women and white counterparts, are a result of systemic and structural challenges that must be addressed through federal, state and local policy mandates.

The initiative kicked off with an event at the 2022 ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition in Philadelphia, PA. Held on March 20, the President’s Symposium on Men of Color in the Health Professions began the conversation on ways to develop best practices for cultivating student pathways into health profession careers, and identified leadership, mentoring, economic, educational and social justice solutions that serve to empower men of color to enter these professions and thrive.

The symposium featured a panel of academicians, health care professionals and other leaders, and drew more than 200 attendees. The corporate sponsors of the symposium—which featured a keynote address delivered by Freeman Hrabowski III, Ph.D., President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County—were RWJF and the American Association for Dental, Oral and Craniofacial Research (AADOCR).

In the wake of that successful symposium, which focused largely on careers in oral health care, representatives of varying health professions groups decided they would convene again to broaden the scope to include additional health professions, build on best practices already implemented by attendees and further turn their words into concrete action.

The next meeting is set for Aug. 10−11 and will take place in the ADEA offices in Washington, DC.

Attendees of that invitation-only meeting are expected to tackle three goals:

  1. Create a mission statement for the collective group,
  2. Develop a strategic action plan in support of men of color in the health professions, and
  3. Identify three top priorities to implement.

This initiative on men of color in the health professions is part of a priority call to action by ADEA President and CEO Karen P. West, D.M.D., M.P.H. That call to action “to build a culturally responsive workforce” is detailed in Slow to Change: HURE Groups in Dental Education, a new report from ADEA that highlights the need to better recruit and retain HURE students. Dr. West and the ADEA Board of Directors are committed to this initiative in both the short- and long-term ranges.

“We must commit to difficult discussions regarding anti-racism and carefully review our policies, practices and related systems to develop strategies that empower students of color to make it ’to our door, no less through and up the ladder,’ ” Dr. West said in the HURE report.     

Dr. West expressed her gratitude to both the RWJF and attendees of the first symposium in March.

“Because of the generous support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we are able to convene some of the brightest minds in academic and health care circles when it comes to supporting diversity and inclusion. Collectively, we will find ways to bring more men of color into our professions,” Dr. West said. “Through these conversations and deliberations, we will learn how to overcome the barriers associated with that goal and ultimately enrich our professions and those we serve with greater representation. I am deeply grateful to both the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for its support and the various stakeholders who have stepped up and embraced this challenge.”

About ADEA: The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) is The Voice of Dental Education. Our mission is to lead and support the health professions community in preparing future-ready oral health professionals. Our members include all 79 accredited U.S. and Canadian dental schools, more than 800 allied and advanced dental education programs, more than 50 corporations and approximately 15,000 individuals. Our activities encompass a wide range of research, advocacy, faculty development, meetings and communications, including the esteemed Journal of Dental Education®, as well as the dental school application services ADEA AADSAS®, ADEA PASS®, ADEA DHCAS® and ADEA CAAPID®