Center of Excellence

Texas A&M College of Dentistry awarded Center of Excellence Grant

Award recognizes the college as a national leader in diversity and inclusion
July 13, 2017

Texas A&M College of Dentistry in Dallas has been awarded a second five-year Center of Excellence grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers of Excellence program to advance diversity in faculty and students. This $3.5 million award is a continuation of the last Centers of Excellence grant the college received, which ran from July 2012 through June 2017.

The grants, which are awarded through the Health Resources and Services Administration, are given based on six different criteria that relate to improving recruitment and retention of underrepresented minority students and faculty or helping to strengthen education, research or service in areas relating to underrepresented minority health. Overall, the goal of the Centers of Excellence program is to improve the nation’s capacity to produce a health professions work force that can provide care for all of the United States’ racially and ethnically diverse populations.

“We see this grant as a recognition of our hard work in these areas and our ability to serve as a model for other health professions schools,” Ernestine Lacy, DDS, professor and director of the Center of Excellence. “Texas A&M College of Dentistry wants to be a resource for those institutions that want to increase the diversity of their students and faculty, with the ultimate objective of impacting the workforce and addressing the access to care issues that exist in so many communities nationwide.”

New for this grant period is a focus on the types of research being done to further underrepresented minorities’ health.

Some of the funds, which HRSA disperses incrementally over the five-year period, will continue to help support faculty recruitment and development programs and interprofessional education opportunities. There also is a focus on providing opportunities for dental students to work in community clinics, especially in underserved areas. Many pre-kindergarten through high school students from underserved communities will benefit as well from a variety of grant-funded programs that demonstrate the importance of oral hygiene and introduce dentistry as a possible career path.

“You need the funding to offer these kinds of opportunities for both students and faculty and to continue to be a leader in this area,” said Lacy, who also serves as executive director of student development at the College of Dentistry.

“We’re not trying to increase diversity just for the sake of diversity,” Lacy explained. “Increasing the number of students from underserved communities who are entering the health fields will potentially increase the number of practitioners who are more than likely to go back and serve those communities after they graduate.”

The ultimate goal, said Lacy, is “to have healthy, productive and thriving communities. This grant provides Texas A&M College of Dentistry with greatly appreciated resources to help us continue to do our part.”

— Christina Sumners

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