Monday, February 21, 2005

Delta Dental underwrites SDM’s program to increase number of minority dentists

Delta Dental which is one of the largest if not the largest dental insurance company in the United States has made a sizable donation to the Boston University School of Dental Medicine:

A recent survey of Massachusetts third-graders showed that dental decay disproportionately affects children whose families cannot afford medical insurance. Nearly half of the children surveyed who are insured through the state program MassHealth have untreated dental decay, and 16 percent have urgent needs and require immediate care. Even more alarming, doctors say, is the fact that decay is preventable with the right care — the problem is simply a lack of qualified dentists practicing in low-income areas.

Delta Dental of Massachusetts, a major insurance provider, is partnering with Boston University’s School of Dental Medicine to seek a solution. The Delta Scholars Program, launched this year with a $4 million endowment from Delta Dental, will help place dentists in low-income communities by recruiting qualified minority and inner-city applicants to SDM, and offering partial scholarships to offset the expensive cost of a dental education. Scholarship recipients will sign a contract pledging to start or join practices in underserved areas throughout the state upon graduation.

“We have a social obligation, and we take that very seriously,” says Rob Compton, the chief dental officer at Delta Dental’s Dental Services of Massachusetts. “The face of our population is changing, and we need the profession to reflect the face of the people of our state.”

The Delta Scholars Program was envisioned by SDM’s Ana Karina Mascarenhas, director of the division of dental public health, and Michelle Henshaw, director of community health programs. When looking at the higher rates of dental decay among low-income and minority populations, they found that minority dentists are statistically more likely to treat minority patients. However, there are simply not enough dentists treating these populations in Massachusetts, partly because of a dearth of minorities practicing dentistry and partly because of the prohibitive costs of dental school. “Dental students graduate with upwards of $160,000 in debt, and starting a dental clinic is even more expensive,” explains Mascarenhas. “So going to work in underserved areas and in community health centers is not affordable, even if someone wants to do it.

Read the remaining article here.

KUDOS to Delta Dental of Massachusetts!

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