"Bridge to Dental School" Program Goes Virtual

July 27, 2020
HSDM students meeting with participants in the Bridge to Dental School program.
HSDM students work with participants in the Bridge to Dental School program during the summer of 2019.

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) at Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) is offering its Bridge to Dental School program for the second year in a row. The free 10-session program is aimed at encouraging diverse representation in dental school applicants by providing prospective students with mentorship and coaching from current HSDM DMD students. The interactive program held on Saturday and Sunday mornings throughout July and August is offered via Zoom this year and covers a variety of valuable topics, including preparation for the Dental Admission Test (DAT) and other elements of the dental school application, such as the interview process and preparing an impactful personal statement.

Dr. Vincenzo Terán, director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, sees tremendous value in engaging with underrepresented minority and low-income students, and providing them with accessible resources and mentorship opportunities. “The pipeline program, now in its second year, has attracted many students across the U.S. who are enthusiastically interested in pursuing careers in oral medicine,” he said. “We received over 120 applications and extended offers to 75 students, most of whom are first-generation college students and/or from historically underrepresented backgrounds,” said Terán.

In fact, 65 percent of this year’s participants are first-generation college students, and nearly 90 percent identify as non-White. “The program will give participants the opportunity to forge relationships with mentors and peers that will extend well-beyond the summer,” Terán added.

Participants meet with HSDM mentors for a virtual session of "Bridge to Dental School," a pipeline program for college students who are interested in pursuing dental school.Bridge to Dental School would not be possible without the efforts of HSDM’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion Fellows. Sixteen DMD students, spanning multiple class years, are responsible for developing the program, creating resources, providing mentorship, and building a strong sense of community for participants. The program ultimately aims to help make dentistry a more inclusive and welcoming field by facilitating meaningful relationships between diverse groups of students and prospective students.

"Bridge to Dental School was created with the goal of fostering an inclusive environment, where the participants and the ODI Fellows can connect and form longitudinal relationships,” said Aida Shadrav, DMD21. “We are hoping that this program supports our diverse group of students and provides a plethora of resources for their success in applying to dental schools. Long term, I hope that Bridge to Dental School contributes to increasing diversity within the dental field and builds a bridge for underrepresented minority students to consider pursuing a career in dentistry."

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the student organizers of the Bridge to Dental School program swiftly adjusted the course to be held virtually which offered an unanticipated benefit.

“This year, we adapted the program to be completely virtual, which allowed us to expand our reach to students across the country and more than doubled the number of students that we can mentor,” Ashwini Parchure, DMD21, said.

Participants in last year's Bridge to Dental School program pose with their certificates and HSDM mentors.
Participants in last year's Bridge to Dental School program pose with their certificates and HSDM mentors.
Mentorship is a particularly important component of Bridge to Dental School. Parchure, Shadrav, and their classmates see incredible value in building connections with their students. By providing underrepresented minority students with lasting, impactful learning opportunities and mentorship, they hope the field of dentistry will be better positioned to meet the needs of diverse populations. “HSDM students hope to encourage and motivate the future leaders in dentistry,” Parchure adds. “In targeting specific underrepresented students in dentistry, we aim to shift the demographics of future dentists to align more with the country's changing demographics.”