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J Am Coll Dent. 2011 Winter;78(4):40-7.

Retention of underrepresented minority students in dental school: one dental schools story.

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There is a large disparity between the proportions of African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans in the general population and in the dental profession. While these underrepresented minorities (URMs) as a group make up almost 30% of the United States population, they constitute only about 6% of the nation's dentists. Eliminating this disparity is important in addressing access to care for underrepresented groups. Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry (TAMHSC-BCD) enrolled greater numbers and proportions of URM students than any other non-minority school from 2006-2010. Strategies used to achieve this level of diversity include a Whole File Review process; career awareness activities for elementary, junior high and high school students; and academic enrichment programs for college students and college graduates. Retaining and graduating URM students is just as important as enrolling them. TAMHSC-BCD's retention rate over the last five years is 95.7% for all students and 92.5% for URM students. A wide range of services aids in the retention process. These services are available to all students and include monitoring of students' academic performance followed up with academic advisement as appropriate, peer tutoring, an alternative five-year curriculum, professional psychological counseling, professional learning assessments, social support; and mentoring through student organizations. The retention program at TAMHSC-BCD can serve as a model for other dental and other health professions schools seeking ways to ensure the academic success of their URM students. The more of these students we enroll and graduate, the more the problem of access to dental care is addressed.

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