Bridge to dentistry: one dental school's approach to improving its enrollment of underrepresented minorities.
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Presently, 25.7% of the U.S. population is comprised of Blacks/African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans. The dental school enrollment of underrepresented minorities (URM) does not reflect this demographic distribution. In 1994, URM students comprised 12.68% of enrolled dental students, but in 1999, enrollment decreased to 10.53%. This trend is evident at Baylor College of Dentistry (BCD). Bridge to Dentistry involves formal linkages with local school districts, Texas colleges and universities, community organizations, dental clinics, community dentists, and BCD. The program is unique in that it targets students from kindergarten through dental school. The key components are awareness, attraction, preliminary education, facilitated-entry, admissions, financial aid, and retention. Some important features of the program are visits to area schools, visits to colleges and universities, summer enrichment programs, and academic advising. Preliminary results indicate the effectiveness of the program. BCD has increased its enrollment of URM students 325% over that of 1998. In 1998, 4.7% of the college's first-year student enrollment was URMs. In 2001, 14.6% of Baylor's first-year student enrollment was URMs. Since 1995, BCD has retained 90.6% of its URM students.