Federal grant seeks to attract Hispanic students to dental careers

With a $2.7 million federal grant, the School of Dentistry at the UT Health Science Center is expanding access to culturally competent dental care in South Texas by attracting local Hispanic students to the profession.

The Center of Excellence grant was awarded in July 2013 by the Health Resources and Services Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Investigators for the grant are Juanita Lozano-Pineda, D.D.S., M.P.H., and Jeff Hicks, D.D.S.

In addition to creating a pipeline of students from Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley heading toward dental careers, the four-year grant provides career development opportunities like fellowships and workshops for Hispanic faculty.

“I’m excited about reaching out to students from the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo areas, with hopes they become motivated to pursue a career in dentistry and someday deliver quality health care to patients in their communities,” said Dr. Lozano-Pineda, a Brownsville native and Hispanic faculty fellow of a previous Hispanic Center of Excellence grant.

A primary objective is to increase opportunities for Hispanics to enter and successfully complete a dental academic program. Other goals include enriching dental student education, participating in community-based dental education and research, and emphasizing culturally competent dental care.

The School of Dentistry’s Hispanic Center of Excellence reaches out to high school, college and School of Dentistry students through recruitment, summer academic and leadership development programs, and faculty development training.

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