The University Record, June 3, 2002

Taking a bite out of dental homogeneity

By Emily Hebert
University Record Intern

Pipeline students Vaneeka Grant (left) of the University of Florida and Rosa Tinajero of Cornell University compare tooth samples to the chart. (Photo by Paul Jaronski, U-M Photo Services)
Incoming U-M dental student Jordan Brunson won’t need a campus map on his first day of class. Although he attended Morehouse College as an undergraduate, Brunson is familiar with the U-M campus, having participated in both Pipeline and Profile for Success—two summer programs offered by the School of Dentistry. “Taking part in these programs has helped me decide for certain that dentistry is what I want to do,” Brunson says.

Pipeline and Profile for Success are currently in session and run through June 28. Founded in 1998, Pipeline exposes college freshmen and sophomores to School of Dentistry and Medical School admissions procedures and to coursework in the basic sciences. Profile for Success, now in its 8th year, is limited to college juniors and seniors and focuses on the dental profession and on Dental Admissions Test (DAT) preparation. Both programs provide students with education in dental specialties and hands-on lab experience.

Khelil Cumberbatch remembers his first time in the lab. A former participant in Pipeline and Profile for Success, Cumberbatch says he took his first impression as a sophomore in Pipeline. Cumberbatch says that when reading about how to do an impression, the process was unclear to him. However, after watching videos and observing the professor’s live demonstration, Cumberbatch says he felt more confident about taking an impression himself. “Actually doing it [the impression] myself made it clear,” Cumberbatch says. “Dr. Stoffers said I did a good job for my first time.”

Cumberbatch will be entering the U-M dental school in the fall and is now a facilitator and instructor for Pipeline and Profile for Success. He also is a mentor to students.

“Mentorship is the greatest advantage of the programs,” says Todd Ester, director of multicultural affairs and co-principal of Pipeline and Profile for Success. As programs catering to disadvantaged and/or under-represented undergraduate students, Ester says that many of the participants in Pipeline and Profile for Success are minorities. “Historically, there are lower numbers of minorities in all educations because there is a lack of access and not enough mentors at their schools and in their neighborhoods” Ester says. “Since there is not a lot of professional mentorship, college and professional school is not tangible for them.”

“Many of our under-represented minorities are not very prevalent in dentistry,” Ester continues. Citing statistics from the American Dental Education Association, Ester says that the total pre-doctoral minority enrollment in U.S. dental schools in 1999 was 25.01 percent Asian-American, 5.28 percent Hispanic, 4.68 percent Black and 0.59 percent Native American.

“Disadvantaged populations are most at risk for oral disease,” says Marilyn Woolfolk, assistant dean for student services at the School of Dentistry and co-principal of Pipeline and Profile for Success. Woolfolk says that disadvantaged criteria can include educational, economic and social disadvantages. “By attracting students from these under-represented groups to the dental profession, we are trying to get more care to more people,” explains Woolfolk.

So far, the programs seem to be succeeding in their goals. According to Charlita Daniels, program coordinator of Pipeline and Profile for Success, the number of participants this year is the largest ever, with 47 students total. She also says that students are from “everywhere,” from California to Georgia to Florida.

Ester says that students also are recruited through campus visits. In fact, it was Ester who recruited Brunson and Cumberbatch, while visiting Morehouse College. But Ester, who has maintained close contact with Brunson and Cumberbatch, thinks of himself more as a “student advocate” than a recruiter. “I make sure students have all the support they need, from their entrance to graduation,” Ester says.

In addition to what he gives, Ester says that much student support comes from peers in the program. He mentions that the group of students who participated in Pipeline in 1998 created their own Web site. Equipped with a user log-in, the Web site acts as a forum where students can keep in touch with one another and provide each other with encouragement.

The participants’ ability to support one another is exactly what Ester and Woolfolk seek to create. “Our hope is to show students how they are mentors to other people,” explains Ester.

“We come on the heels and shoulders of those who have come before,” Ester states. “If students understand that they are both a mentor and a mentee, than they can understand that they can achieve the same status as their mentors.”

According to Woolfolk, 60 of the 113 students who participated in Pipeline and Profile for Success in 1994–2001 either are enrolled or have applied to dental schools.