Diversity in Dentistry

The last few decades have seen a dramatic growth in the numbers of Americans from racial and ethnic minority groups. Presently, U.S. Census statistics show that over 30% of Americans are minorities (i.e., Hispanic, African American, Asian, Native American), with Hispanics being the largest of these groups.1 By 2010, the numbers of minorities increased to 35%, and by 2025 this number is projected to approach 40% of the U.S population. Another, and related, major demographic trend that also has yet to receive adequate attention in the context of dental practice is the growth in immigration to America.

From 1990 to 2000, the number of immigrants in the U.S. increased by 50%, from 20 million to over 30 million. Currently, over 11% of the U.S. population is foreign-born (over 52% of them are from Latin America and over 26% from Asia). Immigrants represent an even greater proportion of the population in the nation’s two largest states: over 20% of California, and over 16% of New York. However, the effects of immigration are evident throughout the country, e.g., the number of foreign-born in North Carolina, Georgia, and Nevada grew by 200% or more in the past decade. Importantly, the growth of the foreign-born population segment is expected to accelerate.

The social, political and economic pressures on the dental profession to meet the health needs of an increasingly diverse society will only grow over the coming decades. It is important to note that within the practicing lifetimes of many current dentists and certainly of current dental students, the number of persons in our nation who are members of minority groups will exceed the numbers of non-Hispanic Whites in the U.S. Our successes as a profession in meeting such challenges are in large part dependent on adequately addressing the multicultural issues that affect doctor-patient communications and patients’ health beliefs and attitudes. This is a major field of research activity that we briefly review in this article, with the goal of identifying ways that may enable current and future dental practitioners to become better prepared to meet the needs of such diverse patient populations.

It is a special honor for me, therefore, to be of service to an entirely global population of candidates for advanced study in dentistry.

Dentistry Summer Enrichment Program Personal Statement Sample, Applicant from Yemen

Now a US citizen, I grew up mostly in our native Yemen where my dentist uncle took me under his wing as a child and taught me the satisfaction to be gained from service to those who are weakest among us, especially those suffering from agonizing pain. I come from the poorest country in the Middle East with the least public health capacity in oral health. Nevertheless, my uncle found the time to treat refugees from Somalia in addition to his regular patients. He is my hero and my personal honor is built upon my dream of following in his footsteps here in the United States.

Dentistry appeals to me because of its breadth; involving, as it does, aesthetics, pain relief, corrective surgery and oral and dental disease prevention. I am aware that the aging of the population will have a direct effect on dentistry. I come from a culture in which the aged are treated with great respect and I look forward to working with the elderly especially those living in difficult financial circumstances and in underserved communities. I intend to work in an underserved community and to do all that I can to educate its members of the importance to general health of oral and dental hygiene routines.

In High School, I joined programs to prepare myself for a career in healthcare provision. The programs included the ‘shadowing’ of various health professionals in a hospital and confirmed my already strong desire to become a dentist.  I have worked as a volunteer in dentists’ offices observing a wide variety of procedures, gaining an understanding of the roles of their staff members and providing general assistance. These experiences have provided me with a good basic understanding of dental techniques, the operation of a dentist’s office and of the dental health environment in the US.  I have also undertaken much informal reading about dentistry and am excited at the rapid and continuing developments in techniques and materials that are occurring and am very keen to assist in the research bringing about these continuing advances.

I am aware that many people are reluctant to find themselves in the dentist’s chair out of apprehension and fear of pain. I understand that interpersonal skills and the ability to inspire confidence in patients and empathize with them are almost as important as technical knowledge and skills. I believe that I have the natural characteristics that will enable me to do so successfully. I have happily studied, worked and socialized with people of many cultural and social backgrounds.

I currently work as a retail manager to support myself and my family during my studies. I was rapidly promoted to this position because my employers recognized various skills and characteristics that I believe are directly applicable to a career in dentistry.  I lead, supervise, motivate, direct, plan and budget whilst, most importantly, providing excellent customer service.

I know that there will be many well qualified applicants for the program. However I consider myself to be an excellent candidate. I have a passionate desire to become a skilled, knowledgeable and caring dentist and believe that I have the potential to do so.

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Helping you is my social service.

Most of my clients are people for whom English is a second language. Almost all are multilingual and many have extensive experience from outside the United States. Some are already dentists who have completed their training and already practiced dentistry in their country of origin; and now they are applying to Advanced Placement Programs leading to the DDS degree in America, Canada, England and Australia. Most of my clients also share an interest in serving the desperate need for extensive new initiatives in oral health care geared towards meeting the needs of societies’ most vulnerable sectors in the Developing World.

I am convinced that one’s ethnicity, language skills, and multicultural experiences need to be woven together in a most eloquent fashion in your Personal Statement, as interconnected themes that radiate throughout your admission essay. Your ethnic or racial background and international aptitudes are your greatest assets as an applicant, and they need to be carefully related to both your short and long term goals. I do everything that I can to make your personal statement to dental school as effective as possible. After a careful review of your material, I often ask you highly specific questions born from my many years of experience writing dental statements. I am a seasoned expert concerning what is important to include, and what is not. I have also had a great deal of practice at condensing a lot of material onto two to three double-spaced pages (we like to think of it as brain surgery).

Often, in both the questions that I write for you as well as the statement itself, I contribute creative ideas that help to make your case for admission much more powerful. Dental school is extremely competitive. It is not enough to suggest that you are hoping to contribute to the diversity of the program; you must demonstrate in especially creative ways how your own unique combination of high motivation and multicultural background makes you uniquely suited to dentistry and that you have enormous potential for meeting the oral health care needs of the planet’s underserved populations.