Calling all undergrads
D2 Patricia Adesanya, SNDA
College students are flocking to the dental school for SNDA Impressions day — and in ever-increasing numbers
In 2002, the first Dallas-area SNDA Impressions Program made its debut, drawing a crowd of approximately 20 prospective dental students. Then something interesting happened: During the next decade, the program grew exponentially. Just what is fueling the success of this student-led initiative, and what does it mean for the dental school?
Dr. Kelton Stewart can still remember the first Impressions day back in 2002. He had a few months until he would start at Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry, and the National Dental Association was having its 89th annual meeting in Dallas. At the time, Dr. James Morrison Jr., national president of the Student National Dental Association, had an idea for the Impressions Program, which was developed to expose underrepresented minority students to dentistry and the application and financial aid process. He wanted to make it part of the annual meeting. The venue: TAMHSC-BCD.
Stewart recalls there were approximately 20 participants that year. They spent the day taking impressions, undergoing mock interviews, attending question-and-answer sessions, and touring the dental school.
“Working with SNDA members from around the nation was a wonderful learning experience for me and the BCD SNDA students,” says Stewart, who earned his dental degree in 2006 and went on to complete his orthodontic residency at TAMHSC-BCD. “It gave us a firm foundation and understanding of the program’s purpose and importance, which was instrumental in the following years as we held our own Impressions programs,” adds Stewart, now an assistant professor and director of the Orthodontic Clinic at Indiana University School of Dentistry.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Impressions Program at TAMHSC-BCD, and Stewart says he attributes its success to the unwavering leadership, energy and commitment of the college’s SNDA chapter. He may just be on to something.
Signs of steady growth
By late March, there were just a few weeks left until the April 28 Impressions day, and D2 Patricia Adesanya’s schedule was full. The invitations were mailed and the agenda set, but that was only part of the planning process. There also were registration forms to collect, rooms to reserve, food to order, information packets to assemble, speakers to schedule and chapter volunteers to recruit.
“I believe what we hear most from undergrad and even high school students is
‘How do I get in?’”—D3 Kenny Brown
When Adesanya assisted with the event in 2011, between 80 and 90 prospective dental students attended. This year’s SNDA Impressions Program drew a crowd of more than 100 undergraduate students from the farthest reaches of the state — including the University of Texas at Austin, UT-San Antonio, University of North Texas, Texas A&M and Baylor University — and beyond.
Prospective students spent the day touring the dental school, taking and pouring impressions, listening to a student panel — and of course — soaking in everything they needed to know about getting into dental school, paying for it and getting the most out of their education, with talks from:
- Liz Lester, assistant director of student aid;
- Dr. Barbara Miller, executive director of recruitment and admissions;
- Dr. Ernestine Lacy, director of student development;
- Dr. Jonathan Clemetson, Baylor College of Dentistry Alumni Association president;
- Dr. Robert Spears, director of the Predoctoral Student Research Program; and
- Dr. Paul Ezzo, assistant clinical professor in periodontics.
D3 Kenny Brown, the president of the college’s SNDA chapter, says one of the Impression Program’s strengths is its ability to give prospective students relevant information, which takes some preparation.
“We must anticipate their questions and concerns so that we can be adequately prepared,” says Brown. “We can also provide the correct perspective being that we are not too far removed from their position.”
Miller, who frequently gets the chance to visit with prospective students, both at Impressions day and during tours, says she has noticed a pattern in the feedback from dental school candidates: They like speaking with current students.
“They really enjoy talking to dental students, because they feel they’ll get a straight answer on what it’s like to be in the program,” Miller says. “The dental students know what activities and information would be helpful to motivate the students, so that’s a big part of it.”
Commitment to diversity
Dr. Kelton Stewart ’06, ’08, who helped start Impressions day at the dental school, offers his perspective
“Since my association with the dental school, there has always been a sincere and visible commitment to diversity,” Stewart says. “BCD has done a great job of establishing pipeline programs at various levels that identify and cultivate individuals — especially from underrepresented backgrounds — for a career in dentistry.
The Impressions Program is just one of a many initiatives that the administration, faculty, staff and students support.
“I think it is truly a testament to BCD’s efforts to actively address some of the many disparities still facing the dental profession … it speaks volumes to the college’s commitment to diversity.”
Impact on admissions
D3 Kenny Brown, SNDA president, and D2 Patricia Adesanya, the Impressions day coordinator, agree that prospective students arrive eager to know more about the application process.
“I believe what we hear most from undergrad and even high school students is ‘How do I get in?’” Brown says.
Adesanya offers her take: “They are all trying to become more competitive applicants and mentally prepare for dental school,” she says.
Dr. Barbara Miller, executive director of recruitment and admissions, says applicants frequently tell her they attended the Impressions Program. That opportunity for dental school candidates to get to know the college’s students, faculty and programs can make quite an impact.
“The strongest applicants can go to any dental school they want, and we want them to choose us,” Miller says. “The more they know about TAMHSC-BCD, the more likely they’ll choose to attend dental school here. And the Impressions Program helps the participants learn more about us.”