Driving Greater Diversity in the Oral Health Workforce

There is an urgent need to address the ongoing lack of minority representation in the oral health professions. As the nation’s oral health leader, Delta Dental has a responsibility to tackle this issue head-on and make progress toward improving outcomes and advancing oral health equity for all.

As such, Delta Dental is undertaking a new campaign, Driving Greater Diversity in the Oral Health Workforce, to help increase the number of oral health professionals from historically underrepresented groups. 

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Inspiring the future of the oral health workforce

Delta Dental companies across the country are deeply invested in their communities and supporting the future of the oral health workforce. 

Delta Dental of Washington

Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences (PNWU) has broken ground on the second dental school in Washington State. The newly announced Delta Dental Equity Hall, a 30,000-square-foot building with a state-of-the-art classroom and workspace, will house the incoming school of dental medicine and will open in the fall of 2025. The school's curriculum will focus on preparing students to work in rural, medically underserved areas in response to a dental workforce shortage. Students will be trained at PNWU for one year before moving to full-time immersive training at federally qualified health centers in Tacoma, Tri-Cities, or Yakima.

Why a diverse oral health workforce is important

Oral health disparities by race and ethnicity persist today 

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    In 2000, the U.S. Surgeon General released a report on oral health characterizing oral disease as a “silent epidemic” affecting vulnerable populations, including historically underrepresented groups, people with disabilities, and the elderly. 

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    Even 20 years later, research shows that rates of tooth decay, periodontal disease, and oral cancers are far higher — and dental care utilization rates considerably lower — for historically underrepresented groups in the U.S. 

There is an imbalance of historically underrepresented groups in the oral health professions  

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    The U.S. Surgeon General and the Institute of Medicine have indicated that remediating this imbalance of dentists from historically underrepresented groups is an important step to improve cultural competency among dentists.

Racial and ethnic diversity among health professionals is linked to improved outcomes and to achieving greater health equity 

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    Research finds that racial and ethnic diversity among health professionals is linked to improved access to care, greater patient choice and satisfaction, and better patient-provider communication for patients from historically underrepresented groups.

Advancing health equity through a diverse oral health workforce

Delta Dental will continue its investment in the future of the oral health workforce through the funding of scholarships and infrastructure at minority serving institutions. Over the last five years, Delta Dental has invested nearly $70 million in college and university programs. In addition, in 2022, Delta Dental supported scholarships, grants, and other workforce development opportunities that benefited more than 182,000 people, many from historically underrepresented groups. 

The Delta Dental Institute has sponsored the Harvard School of Dental Medicine's new research on the oral health workforce. As published in the latest edition of JAMA Health Forum, lead researcher, Dr. Sung Eun Choi, SM, PhD, finds that expanding the dental workforce in oral health professional shortage areas through the National Health Service Corps would reduce the burden of dental caries among children in underserved areas and is cost-effective.

Nearly a quarter of Delta Dental community investments in 2022 were dedicated to oral health education and workforce development. Delta Dental will continue its focus on supporting historically underrepresented groups by conducting outreach to students of all ages to elevate the importance of oral health and overall health and to introduce the possibility of a career in the oral health professions. 

Meet our expert advisors

Tamana (Bunny) Begay, DDS
Supervising Clinical Program Director, Gallup Indian Medical Center

Tamana (Bunny) Begay is of Navajo, Seneca, Mohawk descent.

Dr. Begay began her college career at San Diego Mesa Community College and then transferred to the University of California, San Diego, Revelle College. She graduated in 1999 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology.

In 1999, Dr. Begay enrolled in the University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry’s post-baccalaureate program. Following this program, she began her graduate studies at the University of the Pacific, Dugoni School of Dentistry, in San Francisco. After earning her DDS in 2003, she began working with the Indian Health Service.

Dr. Begay currently works as the Supervising Clinical Program Director at the Gallup Indian Medical Center in Gallup, New Mexico. She is involved in several local and national organizations promoting American Indian/Alaska Native students into higher education and professional careers.

Arturo Brito, MD, MPH
President & CEO, Children's Health Fund

Arturo Brito, MD, MPH, re-joined Children’s Health Fund (CHF) as President and Chief Executive Officer in September 2021. From 1994 to 2005, he served as Medical Director of the South Florida Children’s Health Project, one of CHF’s 25 national network partners, then, as Chief Medical Officer and Executive Vice President of CHF (2006 to 2011). Prior to rejoining CHF, Brito was the lead physician and deputy commissioner for the New Jersey Department of Health (2011-2017), and, most recently, Executive Director, The Nicholson Foundation (2017-2021).

Dr. Brito uses his diverse leadership and clinical experience to carry CHF’s values forward while developing a new strategy for ensuring that children growing up in under-resourced communities have opportunities to thrive and succeed. As a community pediatrician with a public health degree, he sees beyond the clinical walls and understands how systems, when designed right, can positively influence the lives of children. 

Kim D'Abreu
President & CEO, Diversity Dimensions Consulting, LLC, Co-founder & Principal, Partners for Racial Equity

Kim D'Abreu is a seasoned leader in the non-profit space who brings 25 years of experience designing and managing national, impactful workforce diversity and inclusion programs. As a credible thought leader within the education, healthcare, and non-profit sectors, she has built an impeccable reputation for managing the culture and complexities of environments. She obtained her Certificate in Leadership Coaching from Georgetown University with a PCC Certification and holds a BS from The Johns Hopkins University and an MPH from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. As a New York transplant living in Washington, D.C., Kim spends her spare time enjoying live music and theater and relaxing with her daughter and two cats, Brook & Lyn. 

 

Emily Yu
Founder and CEO, AI PRIORI, INC. 

Emily Yu is committed to driving innovations that ensure everyone can be healthy and thrive. As a social entrepreneur, speaker, and published author with more than 20 years of experience in strategy development, partnerships, communications, and tech for good, she is working to change how change is made in the public sector.

As Founder and CEO of AI PRIORI, INC., Emily utilizes machine learning tools to help changemakers identify and consume more relevant content than ever before — so they can tackle society’s most pressing challenges at the scale and speed change happens. Prior to launching AI PRIORI, INC., Emily served as the Executive Director of The BUILD Health Challenge® and Managing Director of Partnerships at the de Beaumont Foundation. In these roles, she raised a $10 million fund to support the advancement of health equity in more than 55 communities across the U.S. These community-led and cross-sector partnerships resulted in more than 100 new legislative policies, organizational policies, and funding opportunities.