In July 2012, a Center of Excellence to advance diversity in faculty and students at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry was established through a $3.4 million grant to the college from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers of Excellence program.
This competitive grant program for health professions schools is intended to produce a quality health care workforce with racial and ethnic diversity representative of the U.S. population.
TAMBCD’s five-year grant is titled “Bridge to Dentistry: Awareness to Practicing, Teaching and Research.” Dr. Ernestine Lacy, professor and executive director of the Office of Student Development and Multicultural Affairs, leads the effort.
The Center of Excellence aims to expand the diversity of students the college enrolls and faculty that it appoints and retains. It builds on the successful pipeline program at the dental school, which has led TAMBCD to comprise the most diverse dental school enrollment in the nation.
It also bolsters the dental school’s ability to serve as a national resource and educational center for diversity and minority health issues and reinforces its commitment to improving access to care for underserved communities.
The center enhances programs that educate TAMBCD students in providing health care services to diverse patient populations of off-campus, community-based facilities. A goal is to graduate dental professionals who are committed to improving the oral health of urban and rural underserved communities in Texas and beyond.
Information resources, clinical education, curriculum and cultural competence are emphasized as they relate to health issues of underserved populations. The center encourages faculty and student research in health issues that particularly affect minority groups who are underserved.
This comprehensive program links the Dallas Independent School District, three undergraduate institutions and community-based entities to provide activities involving Pre-K through dental students and dental faculty.
The director of the Center of Excellence, Dr. Ernestine Lacy, is executive director of TAMBCD’s Office of Student Development and Multicultural Affairs. She was honored as the 2013 recipient of the American Dental Education Association’s prestigious Gies Award for Outstanding Achievement.
Nearly every facet of Lacy's job requires her to interact with students. Whether it’s the teens in the dental assisting class at Dallas’ Townview Magnet Center, the high schoolers and college scholars in the Summer Predental Enrichment Program or promising dental students on track for a simultaneous DDS and master’s degree in dental education, students are Lacy’s points of pride.
As a result of the work of her office, each year thousands of young people from underserved communities in Texas are introduced to dental medicine as a potential career path.