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Pipeline Recruitment & Retention Strategies

Over time medical and dental schools have reported a variety of strategies to increase diversity in their student body. A subcommittee of Dental Pipeline schools has considered these strategies and is proceeding to utilize some of the following:

  1. Attract more minority/low income applicants. Methods for achieving this include:
    • Increase scholarships
    • Recruit more minority faculty
    • Sponsor enrichment programs.
  2. Collaborate with other dental schools and feeder schools in the region to:
    • Increase the number of applicants and students from underrepresented populations
    • Develop regional and national health policies that will sustain recruitment programs.
  3. Partner with medical schools on recruitment and retention programs.
  4. Educate pre-health advisors from regional schools about dental schools and careers so they can provide more informed guidance to students.
  5. Involve local minority dental associations in mentoring activities.
  6. Review diversity and admissions policies with university officials to conform to Supreme Court affirmative action rulings.
  7. Partner with regional post-baccalaureate programs.

Pipeline Retention Strategies
Student retention programs are crucial to increasing the number of graduating underrepresented and low-income dental school students. Goals of these retention programs are to:

  1. Ease the transition into dental schools
  2. Help students succeed in school 
  3. Create a climate that welcomes and supports diversity


While these programs are often available to all students, schools often sponsor programs to address the additional challenge of adjusting to a different cultural environment that minority and low-income students may face. They may include academic support services, advising, and mentoring.

Two studies that examined minority dental students’ experiences in dental school are:

  1. A September 2003 University of Pennsylvania published in the Journal of Dental Education found that minority students were influenced by the presence of minority student organizations and the visible presence of campus-wide diversity activities when they selected a dental school.1
  2. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reported in November 2003 that many enrolled students felt “isolated, on guard, marginalized and unwelcome” in the dental school environment, according to focus groups conducted at six dental schools. The study suggests that sensitizing faculty to communication barriers helps redress these criticisms.

Some Dental Pipeline schools have adopted additional retention strategies, such as:

  • Developing an academic support infrastructure
  • “Closer Look” weekends for accepted students
  • Pre-enrollment programs
  • Support for minority student organizations
  • Faculty and peer mentoring
  • Climate studies and assessments of diversity preparedness
  • Activities to support diversity



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