Dental Service of Massachusetts (DSM) – the nonprofit corporation doing business as Delta Dental of Massachusetts – recently announced that it is expanding its Workforce Development Initiative with a $5 million Legacy of Leadership endowment to the Harvard School of Dental Medicine (Dental School). The gift will help address critical oral health needs in the community by building the dental workforce, increasing the number of minority oral health care professionals, and providing leadership in eliminating disparities in oral health care.
The endowment will establish four positions within the Dental School, including two endowed professorships, which will focus on oral health and epidemiology; a fellowship in minority oral health policy, which will focus on the delivery of culturally competent oral health care; and a postdoctoral Delta Dental Dean’s Scholar, for a dental school graduate entering academia.
“There are growing shortages of oral health care professionals,” said Kathy O’Loughlin, president and CEO of DSM. “This endowment will help support current Dental School faculty who are conducting important public health research, and build the pipeline of faculty and oral health professionals, especially among minorities.”
The Legacy of Leadership endowment addresses a need that affects dozens of schools across the country. Faced with severe staff shortages, dental schools are struggling to attract dental health professionals, particularly because they often compete with lucrative salaries in the private sector. More than 300 faculty positions remain vacant at 56 schools across the country, most after yearlong searches.
“This endowment enhances the Harvard School of Dental Medicine’s long legacy of training leaders in oral health research and academia. Our curriculum will continue to focus on incorporating research and clinical care, and link academics and research,” said Bruce Donoff, dean of the Dental School.
The Legacy Leadership endowment at Harvard will also foster greater diversity among Dental School students and faculty at a time when Hispanics, African Americans, and Native Americans are significantly underrepresented.
“HSDM was the first United States school of dentistry to admit an African-American student in 1867; the first African-American faculty member in Harvard’s history was a dental school alumnus who taught here in the 1870s,” said Donoff. “The endowment’s emphasis on diversity will help the School to continue this tradition,” he added.
DSM began an initiative to increase the dental workforce and improve diversity in 2003 with a series of grants to Quinsigamond Community College Hygiene Program, Massasoit Community College Dental Assisting Program, and Forsyth Dental Hygiene Program (Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences).
In 2004, DSM began the Delta Dental of Massachusetts Scholars Program at the Boston University School of Dental Medicine. By 2009, the program will support 10 to 15 under-represented minority and low-income dental students who otherwise might not have entered dental school. Five Delta Dental of Massachusetts Scholars will also be treating thousands of underserved Bay State residents.