The ADEA Summit focuses on the lack of men of color in the health professions

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Addressing 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 begin developing solutions to the lack of black men in health professions.

The 2022 ADEA Men of Color in the Health Professions Summit, held Aug. 10-11 at ADEA 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, MD, Ph.D., the 16th Surgeon General of the United States, who urged attendees to take action.

“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 the 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 grew just 2.2% on a compound annual basis. Other healthcare disciplines also report slow 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 students historically underrepresented in the health professions, Dr. Satcher said outreach should start in 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 (DDS) initiative founded by Christina Rosenthal, DDS, who spoke at the summit. The pipeline program helps expose students to various health care disciplines.

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

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

Dr. West had pitched the idea for a Men of Color in the Health Professions initiative to the Federation of Health Professions School Associations last spring, and the effort kicked off with a symposium at the ADEA 2022 Annual Session and Exposition last 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.

August summit participants 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.

“Multidisciplinary participation at the summit is an essential part of what will be a success story,” said Sonya Smith, Ed.D., JD, ADEA’s Chief Diversity Officer. “No single medical discipline is immune to this problem, and no single discipline or entity can solve it. The solution lies in the innovative thinking of various stakeholders and an unwavering determination for positive change.”

The summit attracted numerous leaders within dental education, including Todd V. Ester, DDS, MS and Ryan Quock, DDS, who both served as facilitators for the event.

Dr. Ester is Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Assistant Clinical 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 thanked everyone in attendance 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 in the health professions — and improving health care as a result.”

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