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Henry Schein, NDA, and Schattner Foundation Unveil Student Mentoring Program for Future Dental Professionals


Applications open for the second annual 2024 S.M.I.L.E. Healthcare Pathway Program.

Henry Schein, NDA, and Schattner Foundation Unveil Student Mentoring Program for Future Dental Professionals | Image Credit: © Henry Schein, Inc

Image Credit: © Henry Schein, Inc

Henry Schein, Inc, in collaboration with the National Dental Association (NDA) and the Schattner Foundation, announced the launch of the S.M.I.L.E. (Student Mentoring with Immersive Learning and Enrichment) Healthcare Pathway Program. This groundbreaking initiative aims to mentor and support aspiring healthcare professionals while fostering inclusivity within the dental field.

The application window is now open for the 2024 program scheduled from July 7-11, 2024, at Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry in Nashville, Tennessee. Partnering with Henry Schein, the NDA, and Schattner Foundation to present the 2024 program are the Hispanic Dental Association, the Society of American Indian Dentists, Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry, the A.T. Still University’s Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health, and the A.T. Still University's Missouri School of Dentistry and Oral Health.

The S.M.I.L.E. Program targets motivated high school students (grades 9-10) from underrepresented backgrounds, offering them exposure to diverse career opportunities in oral health, including dental assisting, hygiene, and dentistry, as well as various practice models and industry roles. Through a week-long immersive experience, participants benefit from:

  • Mentorship from seasoned dental professionals
  • Hands-on learning of real-world procedures to develop practical skills
  • Exploration of diverse dental career pathways
  • Capstone projects culminating in presentations focused on actionable insights

This holistic approach equips students with informed career choices, essential skills, and the confidence to become future leaders in oral health.

“We are thrilled to join with our partners to present the S.M.I.L.E. Healthcare Pathway Program,” says Carol Summerhays, DDS, Henry Schein S.M.I.L.E. program director, in a press release. “This program represents a significant milestone in our unwavering commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion within the dental profession. Through early exposure, mentorship, and direction, we firmly believe that by introducing students to the dynamic world of dentistry, we can ignite their passion and empower them to pursue careers as dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, and dental office administrators. In America, over 30% of the population identify as Black or African American or Hispanic, with that number dropping significantly to less than 10% for dentists.1 We hope to cultivate the next generation of dental professionals to better serve our diverse patient community and strengthen the foundation of our critical health care community."

In 2023, the inaugural S.M.I.L.E. program was held at 3 locations: Howard University College of Dentistry, University of Maryland School of Dentistry, and Mary’s Center, a federally qualified health center located in the DC Metro area. The program, made possible by a generous grant from the Schattner Foundation and the support of other professional organizations, brought together 34 ninth and tenth-grade students from the Metropolitan DC area, Las Vegas, New York, and Ohio for an enriching learning experience alongside dental professionals and specialists.

“The NDA remains mission-focused and committed to supporting educational initiatives and programs that empower aspiring healthcare professionals. By partnering with Henry Schein, the Schattner Foundation, and esteemed institutions like Howard University, the University of Maryland, and now Meharry Medical College, we will continue to ‘build bridges’ and to make a significant impact in nurturing talent and fostering growth in the dental industry,” Marlon Henderson, DDS, 99th president of the NDA, says in the press release. “Together, our collective efforts will help mentor future healthcare professionals, enhance health literacy, expand diversity in the health care workforce, and ultimately improve health equity and overall outcomes in underserved communities nationwide.”

Applications for the 2024 program at Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry are currently being accepted, with a deadline of March 31, 2024. Eligible students can apply

Henry Schein is a global solutions company serving healthcare professionals. With approximately 24,000 Team Schein Members worldwide, the company provides over 300 valued solutions to more than 1 million customers globally, helping to improve operational success and clinical outcomes.

The NDA promotes oral health equity among people of color by leveraging the collective power of its members, advocating for the needs of dental students of color, and raising the profession's profile in communities.

Established in 1992 by Dr. Robert I. Schattner, the Schattner Foundation aims to make grants where they will do the most good and make a difference. For more information, visit www.robertischattnerfoundation.org.

  1. "U.S. Dentist Demographic Dashboard," American Dental Association, Health Policy Institute.
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