In a continuing commitment to address racial disparities in oral health, the National Dental Association Foundation (NDAF) and Colgate-Palmolive Company announce the creation of the “Audacity to Dream” scholarship program for African Americans pursuing careers in dentistry. Students currently enrolled in dental school and demonstrating success in areas such as leadership, community service, and research will be eligible for grants from $5,000 to $20,000.
Applications and awards criteria are available https://ndafoundation.org/audacity-to-dream-scholarship.html. Grants will be presented at the NDAF’s annual convention in June 2021.
Dental care is one of the United States’ largest unmet health needs. Studies indicate that African American children, ages two- to 8-years old, are about twice as likely as whites to have untreated tooth decay. African American working-age adults are also almost twice as likely to have untreated decay as their white counterparts. Communities that lack access to oral health often have higher rates of periodontal disease, as well as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
A shortage of African American dentists is one of several challenges African Americans face in accessing oral health care.
While African Americans make up about 13% of the U.S. population, they account for only 3.8 percent of dental professionals. Many African Americans would prefer to see an African American dentist. A survey conducted for National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that approximately one-third of African Americans experienced discrimination seeking medical care. In addition, roughly a quarter of those polled indicated that they have been avoiding care for themselves or a family member out of concern they would encounter racial discrimination.
Colgate and NDAF have been partners to improve the oral health of African American communities for 30 years. Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures mobile dental vans are often staffed by NDAF dental volunteers. In a normal year, the vans visit more than 1,000 U.S. cities and towns each year and reach more than nine million children with free dental screenings, oral health education, and treatment referrals. The NDAF – HEALTH NOW initiative, which sends teams of dental professionals, physicians, optometrists, and nurses into underserved communities to provide dental services, medical and vision screenings, receives Colgate support. Together, the NDA and Colgate have also contributed more than $4.2 million to fund research on the impact of oral health diseases on people of African descent.
“To truly establish oral health equity, African Americans need greater access to care, more affordable care, increased oral health awareness, and dentists who are passionate about improving the quality of life in communities of color,” insists Dr. Bertram J. Hughes, President of the National Dental Association Foundation. “Filling the pipeline with the next generation of African American dental professionals helps move us forward on all fronts.”
Adds Dr. Gillian Barclay, Colgate’s Vice President, Global Public Health: “Colgate is determined to create a zero cavity future for all. We know that oral health can affect the lives of African American children and their families in devastating ways – their ability to go to school, to work, and to thrive. That’s why Colgate is vested in supporting African American dental students, because we know that they will make a meaningful difference in our communities and our world.”
For additional information on the Audacity to Dream scholarship program, visit Audacity to Dream Scholarship (ndafoundation.org).