(DALLAS) — Each year, select students in the Dallas area receive academic enrichment and get a peek inside the field of dentistry through the Bridge to Dentistry program provided by the Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry.

HSC-BCD is seeking practicing dental professionals to play a key role in the various components of the program by serving as mentors and sponsoring area students interested in learning more about careers in dentistry.

The program targets students – pre-kindergarten through post-baccalaureate –from underserved communities and is designed to introduce careers in dentistry while facilitating academic success through mentoring, tutoring and college preparation. One goal is to attract and support future dentists from areas that are underserved by health professionals in hopes that they may return to practice in such communities.

“This program follows the No Child Left Behind objectives by working to close the educational gap that exists in our country,” said Gretchen Hartman, educational program coordinator in HSC-BCD’s Office of Student Development.

During the academic year, students in pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade receive information on oral health and dental careers through on-site visits to elementary schools through Project Dental Awareness. Students in grades seven through 12 have the opportunity to visit HSC-BCD and participate in hands-on activities to enhance their knowledge of dentistry.

The Bridge to Dentistry program has four components offered in the summer intended to attract students interested in dental or science professions. They offer a more detailed look at the dental profession while providing academic support relevant to the individual programs, which are grade-level specific.

The Summer Team Enlightenment Program is open to students entering tenth-grade. The weeklong course allows students the opportunity to enhance study skills and awareness of career options in dentistry.

The Summer Teen Academic Readiness Program is a one-week program designed for entering eleventh-graders. Students receive PSAT preparation and laboratory experience at HSC-BCD.

The Summer Academic Enrichment Program is a six-week program providing interdisciplinary SAT preparation and learning strategies for students entering their senior year in high school. Students receive preclinical dentistry lectures and laboratory time on campus in addition to an introduction to research methods.

The program incorporates field trips to a number of local colleges and universities, including a one-week stay to introduce students to college life. Students are familiarized with the college pre-admissions process and attend financial aid workshops.

Additionally, HSC-BCD offers programs to help college students and graduates prepare for the dental school admissions process.

“We are building a pipeline,” said Dr. Ernestine Brooks, director of student development at HSC-BCD. “We meet students in the elementary schools, and we want to support their interest through high school, college and dental school. Our goal is to see them through the pipeline and into private practice.”

Dental professionals interested in mentoring future generations of dentists or sponsoring a student through the program can contact Ms. Hartman at (214) 828-8018 or Dr. Brooks at (214) 828-8374.

Founded in 1905, Baylor College of Dentistry at Dallas is a component of the Texas A&M Health Science Center. HSC-BCD is a nationally recognized center for oral health sciences education, research, specialized patient care and continuing dental education.

The Texas A&M Health Science Center provides the state with health education, outreach and research. Its six components located in communities throughout Texas are Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology, the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, and the School of Rural Public Health.

— LaDawn Brock