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Delta Dental of Massachusetts awards $4 million to support new programs at BU dental school

Boston University : 17 February, 2005  (Technical Article)
With the goals of increasing diversity within the dental profession while increasing the number of dentists practicing in underserved areas in the state, DSM (d.b.a. Delta Dental of Massachusetts) has awarded a $4 million grant to Boston University School of Dental Medicine to create the Delta Dental of Massachusetts Scholars Program. The gift establishes the largest endowment in the nation for dental scholarships for low income and minority students.
“Massachusetts does not have a public dental school and average tuition at the three Boston-based private dental schools is $38,500 annually,” said Dr. Ana Karina Mascarenhas, director of the Dental Public Health Program at BUSDM. “Dental school is financially out of reach for many of the state’s disadvantaged students. Less than 2 percent of applicants to dental schools nationwide are from Massachusetts, indicating that many Massachusetts young adults, particularly low income and minority students, do not view dentistry as a viable educational path.”

To increase the number of Massachusetts low income and minority residents entering dental school, the endowment will provide scholarships to students in two new programs: the Early Dental School Selection Program and the Master of Arts in Medical Sciences Program.

The Early Dental School Selection Program will identify potentially successful low-income and minority candidates in their second year of college and conditionally accept them to Boston University School of Dental Medicine. Provided they maintain an acceptable grade point average, students will matriculate at BUSDM once they receive their bachelor’s degree. Students will take courses during the summer and spend their entire senior year at Boston University.

The second program, the Master of Arts in Medical Sciences Program, is for low income and minority students who had applied, but were not accepted, into dental school. One-third of Massachusetts applicants are not accepted to dental schools each year. This program will provide these students with the opportunity to enhance their academic preparation and increase the likelihood of acceptance to dental school.

The ultimate goal of the Delta Dental of Massachusetts Scholars Program is to improve access to dental care in underserved Massachusetts communities. Scholarship recipients will agree to practice in these underserved communities after graduation from dental school. “For each year students receive a scholarship they agree to practice for one year in an underserved community,” said Dr. Michelle Henshaw, director of Community Health Programs at BUSDM. The average expected participation time for each student is four years.

“The mission of Delta Dental of Massachusetts is to improve oral health,” says Dr. Kathy O’Loughlin, President and CEO of Delta Dental of Massachusetts. “In one of the wealthiest nations on earth, the documented and increasing disparity in oral health status due to income or race is a serious public health dilemma. Delta Dental of Massachusetts’ partnership with Boston University is one step toward achieving a sustainable, long-term solution to correcting inadequate access to basic health services for our neediest citizens. This is an exciting opportunity, all Massachusetts residents deserve access to optimum oral health, and I believe through partnerships such as this that it is achievable in our lifetime.”

“Data consistently demonstrate that people living in poverty are disproportionately affected by poor oral health,” says Dr. Spencer N. Frankl, dean of Boston University School of Dental Medicine. “The Delta Dental endowment will allow Boston University to improve this situation by increasing the number of dentists who care for the state’s poorest residents. An important aspect of the mission of BUSDM is to improve our community’s health, and this endowment is a critical step towards achieving oral health parity across all Massachusetts populations.”
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