How 1 Arizona dentist is working to diversify dentistry

Laila Hishaw, DDS, dismayed by the small number of Black dentists in the U.S., started a social media campaign three years ago that snowballed into the nationwide nonprofit Diversity in Dentistry Mentorship Program, reported Zenger News Oct. 10.

Black dentists make up less than 4 percent of all U.S. dentists, according to the American Dental Association's Health Policy Institute.

"I just put out a post, shared the stats, and said, 'Whose kid can I mentor?'" said Dr. Hishaw, a pediatric dentist in Tucson, Ariz. "When I saw the responses, I saw that parents wanted their kids to know about dentistry."

The Diversity in Dentistry Mentorship Program features dentist mentors to provide training and counseling to middle- and high-school students.

"We try to reach them early," Dr. Hishaw said. "Education is one of the barriers for students of color. If a student of color expresses an interest in the medical field, guidance counselors always guide them toward nursing or medicine, never dentistry. But, we also want to prepare them to be qualified to be accepted into dental school. I want them to get into dental school, but I want them to finish dental school. Our network of mentors gives them the skills to be successful in dental school."

"Studies show that minority patients are more likely to visit medical professionals from their own communities," Dr. Hishaw wrote in an April ADA News op-ed. "Without dentists of color, minority groups often go without the dental care they need."

Dr. Hishaw aims to raise the percentage of Black dentists by double digits. Chuck Cohen, managing director of Pittston, Pa.-based Benco Dental, has teamed up with her to help reach that goal.

A Diversify Dentistry Youth Summit is slated for Nov. 1 in Arizona.

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