ADEA Summit Focuses on Scarcity of Men of Color in the Health Professions

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Tackling a problem that significantly undermines access to quality health care, the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) hosted a two-day summit in August to shed light on—and start to develop solutions to—the paucity of men of color in the health professions.

The 2022 ADEA Men of Color in the Health Professions Summit, held Aug. 10-11 at ADEA’s headquarters in Washington, DC, drew attendees representing more than two dozen health care organizations and dental schools. Made possible with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the summit featured a keynote presentation by David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D., the 16th Surgeon General of the United States, who galvanized attendees to act.

“We need people who care enough to know enough and have the courage to do enough to persevere until the job is done,” he said.

A look at data helps to explain the problem. For example, between 2011 and 2019, the percentage of dental school applicants from historically underrepresented racial and ethnic (HURE) groups increased only 2.2% on a compounded annual basis. Other health care disciplines also report sluggish growth when it comes to attracting HURE applicants. And a growing body of research suggests that medical care improves when health care professionals and patients share the same race or ethnicity.

To attract more historically underrepresented students into the health professions, Dr. Satcher said the outreach must start as early as elementary school. “Right now, we need to invest in their excitement about learning, so students invest more in themselves,” he said. “We have to ask, how can I make sure our students care about learning?”

One such outreach program is the Determined to be a Doctor Someday (D.D.S.) initiative founded by Christina Rosenthal, D.D.S., who spoke at the summit. The pipeline program helps to expose students to the various health care disciplines.

The summit served as an initial step in what is expected to be a longer, sustained and collaborative effort to increase men of color within the health professions.

“We’re going to take the passion and commitment to change we saw at this summit and translate it into action,” vowed ADEA President and CEO Karen P. West, D.M.D., M.P.H. “This summit marks the start of what will be a comprehensive and practical initiative that will provide recommendations, suggested priorities and next steps to the presidents and CEOs of academic health professions organizations and other health care and educational leaders.”

Dr. West had presented the idea for a Men of Color in the Health Professions initiative to the Federation of Associations of Schools of the Health Professions last spring, and the effort began with a symposium at the 2022 ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition this past March. That symposium was a collaboration with the Association of American Medical Colleges, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Association for Dental, Oral and Craniofacial Research.

Attendees of the August summit included representatives from dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, psychiatry, public health, osteopathic medicine, social work, physical therapy, occupational therapy, veterinary medicine and optometry, along with more than a dozen schools and academic centers.

“The multidisciplinary participation in the summit is a crucial part of what will be a success story,” said Sonya Smith, Ed.D., J.D., ADEA Chief Diversity Officer. “No single medical discipline is immune to this problem and no single discipline or entity can solve it. The solution rests in the innovative thinking of diverse stakeholders and an unbreakable resolve for positive change.”

The summit drew multiple leaders within dental education, including Todd V. Ester, D.D.S., M.S., and Ryan Quock, D.D.S., both of whom served as facilitators for the event.

Dr. Ester is the Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, and Dr. Quock is a Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston.

Dr. West offered her thanks to all attendees and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for its support.

“Because of the generosity of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the time and expertise of the stakeholders who attended our summit, we are on a path to realizing greater diversity into the health professions—and improved health care as a result.”

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