Western University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine (CDM) was awarded a five-year U.S. Department of Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Scholarship for Disadvantaged Students totaling more than $3.2 million.

The purpose of the CDM “Diversity Development Scholarship” (DDS) Program is to transform the work force by promoting diversity among the student body and dental professions through scholarships to dental students from economically and/or educationally disadvantaged backgrounds, including underrepresented minorities, who have demonstrated financial need. This scholarship will pay for half of the yearly tuition for awarded DDS recipients during their CDM enrollment upon meeting all stipulations of the award. Furthermore, the DDS scholarship is a non-competing renewal, which means that if all stipulations and requirements for the award have been met and fulfilled, the scholarship will automatically renew for the next year’s enrollment.

CDM faculty and students mentored WesternU SHPEP students during this forensic dental rotation. SHPEP encourages underrepresented students to enter
the health professions. (Jeff Malet, WesternU)

The HRSA Award for Disadvantaged Students is the perfect complement to WesternU’s pipeline programs such as the Pomona Health Career Ladder, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP) and other initiatives, noted Steven Friedrichsen, DDS, professor and dean of the College of Dental Medicine.

“We are elated that the funds will help support students achieve their dreams of becoming health care professionals,” Friedrichsen said. “This is an exciting capstone to the solid foundation of programs and activities at WesternU that are supporting a generation of dentists whose faces mirror those of our region and nation.”

This grant in the first year (2020-21) will provide 17 scholarships to five incoming Class of 2024 students and four students in each of the classes of 2021, 2022 and 2023. Every new fiscal year, an additional four to five scholarships will be offered to the incoming DMD candidates. One of the stipulations is the scholarship recipients will serve at least one year in a dental health profession shortage area or medically underserved area after graduation, said CDM Interim Associate Dean for Community Partnerships and Access to Care Marisa Watanabe, DDS, MS, who is Project Director for the grant.

“This is one of the instruments that can support student health care education, and also provide opportunities for students to deliver services in underserved communities. As a service obligation scholarship, graduating dental students will be able to learn more about community dentistry as an option to private practice,” Watanabe said. “The scholarship is also learning about different environments, different cultures, different communities and different populations you can impact. With this grant, we are hoping to increase the diversity of the dental work force and their commitment to providing care to the community.”

The grant starts July 1, 2020. Application information and additional guidelines will be forthcoming.

“While the Inland Empire has some of the brightest minds around, not everyone starts off on equal footing in life,” U.S. Rep. Norma Torres, whose district includes Pomona, said in a press release. “The funds I’m announcing today will help address that disparity by ensuring Western University of Health Sciences can offer the financial support and opportunity its graduate students need. Not only will this grant help more people within our community afford their education, but it will also help ensure our leading medical professionals reflect the diversity of the region they serve.”

WesternU SHPEP students learn to sculpt a fractured typodont tooth with composite during a dental medicine rotation. (Jeff Malet, WesternU)