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New careers program aims to diversify dental profession

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A new program Dental Career Discovery: A Hands-On Journey aimed at addressing the critical dental workforce shortage – particularly within historically underrepresented communities – launched this month in Tukwila following a successful pilot by Delta Dental of Washington.

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The program – led by Nicolette Slaughter, Delta Dental’s workforce development program manager – provides a two-day career introduction and workshop to middle- and high-school students throughout the state of Washington featuring hands-on activities, access to partner clinics for job shadowing opportunities and a pathway to a potential career in the dental field.

“We’re raising awareness about the dental profession, but because we are serving historically underserved communities who are still experiencing oral health disparities at a prevalent level, we also emphasize the importance of oral health,” Slaughter said.

Slaughter and her crew recently visited Foster High School in Tukwila to meet with high school students to discuss the importance of oral health, help them better understand the dental field, and to share the types of jobs available  to explore.

“The exposure to dentistry through this program has ignited a passion in our scholars, many of whom had previously viewed such careers as unattainable,” said LaTanya R. Parker, Foster High School principal. “I believe empowerment, opportunity and access are crucial in supporting scholars in achieving their post-secondary goals in dentistry or other professional fields.”

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Currently, the dental workforce significantly lacks diversity, according to a 2020 report from the American Dental Association. More than 70% of the dental workforce is white, 18% is Asian, 5.9% Hispanic, 3.8% Black and 2.2% American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander.

The Dental Career Discovery program is designed to improve the imbalance and help the students of today become the dentists of tomorrow within historically underrepresented communities.

“We’re raising awareness about the dental profession, but because we are serving historically underserved communities who are still experiencing oral health disparities at a prevalent level, we also emphasize the importance of oral health,” Slaughter said. “We also partner with local dental clinics which are willing to train or job shadow with these young folks. We’re really taking the time with them because we are talking with a community who has probably never considered themselves in the dental field.”

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For more information about the Dental Career Discovery: A Hands-On Journey program, visit www.deltadentalwa.com or email nslaughter@deltadentalwa.com.

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