Dental admissions program
The Health Science Center is addressing the pipeline predicament through its Dental School Early Admissions Program (DEAP). Established in 1990, the program is affiliated with 17 colleges and universities in Texas with high minority enrollments. The program allows students who have completed between 12 and 30 hours of college courses to apply directly to Dental School at the Health Science Center.
The Texas Department of State Health Servicesí Center for Health Statistics reported that 46 counties in Texas are without a dentist, and that the growth in the number of minorities entering the health professions is not keeping pace with Texasí minority population.
The DEAP works hand in hand with the universityís Med/Ed Program whose mission is to encourage and recruit high school students, especially those in the Rio Grande Valley and in underserved areas in Texas, into the health professions. The program provides information and opportunities to motivate, educate and prepare students for higher education and graduate and professional programs.
The Health Science Centerís efforts are paying off. According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Boardís 2003 statistical report of public health-related institutions in Texas, the Health Science Center had the highest enrollment of Hispanic students of any dental school in Texas.
"The DEAP is a major contributor to the Health Science Centerís diverse class of students," Dr. Thomas said. "Diversity means many things, not just ethnicity. It means different backgrounds and different life experiences as well."
Saba Ahmed is in her fifth year of the DEAP and is a second-year dental student from Mercedes, Texas. "I first learned about the DEAP when I was at the South Texas High School for Health Professions," Ahmed said. She entered the DEAP after enrolling at The University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg.
"I always knew I wanted to be a dentist, but I also was aware that the time and money involved would be a challenge," she said. "The DEAP allowed me to get accepted into dental school early on in my academic career. I was able to save a year of tuition costs and time. I feel like Iím at the right place at the right time and that practicing dentistry and having a family in the future is an attainable goal."
Ahmed said one of the most rewarding things about the DEAP is being able to encourage incoming students.
"This program really opened my eyes to the need for dentists throughout Texas. I enjoy being an example to new students who come from underserved areas of Texas like I did," Ahmed said. "Students see that if I can do it, they can too. They begin to realize that so many people down the line will benefit from their achievements."
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