Excelling for 47 years in education, patient care, and research, the University of Florida College of Dentistry, or UFCD, is one of only three U.S. dental schools with all recognized specialties. UFCD is also located right on UF’s campus, which is somewhat unique in U.S. dental schools, so students can take advantage of sporting events, transportation, and other university resources.
Third-year dental student Megan Menashe finds that having every specialty in-house has helped her explore her options for continuing her education because she can shadow residents and faculty in dental specialty clinics and learn more about each without having to travel to other schools. In addition, having a hospital on campus allows her to explore a different side of dentistry, discovering the importance of working with patients who have special needs or disabilities requiring elevated levels of care.
Abel Gilbert, UFCD outreach and recruitment specialist, says that UF’s research-based, comprehensive dental education is possible because of the elevated expertise of dental faculty members.
“UF has consistently been one of the top 10 recipients of National Institutes of Health research funding for well over 15 years,” Gilbert said. “Through intense didactic, psychomotor and clinical training, UF dental students are taught to be very thorough clinicians. The UFCD simulation laboratory includes 94 workstations equipped with mannequins and monitors, is open extended hours for students to practice, and is equipped with special software that allows students to compare their work to a faculty model before an exam.
UFCD knows the value in graduating well-rounded clinicians. An office for student advocacy and inclusion, tutoring in psychomotor and didactic skills, and organizations such as the American Student Dental Association and Psi Omega all add to the students’ education.
“Here, you’re not just a number; the faculty knows each and every student. Dental school is not easy, and although I am away from home, UFCD is like a second family for me by providing support during my transition,” Menashe said.
One crucial component of the educational experience at UFCD is the emphasis placed on caring for those in underserved communities and populations.
“We want students to have experience working with a large cross-section of the population, including underserved communities and beyond, so they have a broad understanding of how access-to-care affects oral health and overall health,” Gilbert said.
The DMD curriculum includes clinical rotations through dental centers that are part of the UF Statewide Network for Community Oral Health. The network includes partnership centers across Florida where many of the patients have very little options for oral health care. In addition, each year there are multiple options for educational service trips that provide opportunities for students to travel internationally to help care for, and learn from, underserved communities in countries like the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, to name a few.
“Attending the Bahamas educational service trip last year was one of the most amazing, humbling experiences. My group traveled to Andros, an island in the Bahamas, in which there is not one practicing dentist,” Menashe said.
She says the experience strengthened her desire to continue, after graduation, to provide care in to underserved populations.
UFCD is one of only four dental schools with a Health Resources & Services Administration scholarship grant for disadvantaged students. Under the direction of Pamela Sandow, D.M.D., assistant dean for admissions and financial aid, UFCD has offered $5 million in scholarships for disadvantaged students since 2012. This opens the door for students to incur less debt during school, freeing them to have the option of practicing in underserved areas after graduation.
For UF undergraduates who hope to pursue a career in dentistry, a special accelerated degree program allows select students to enter dental school a year early, which means a year of savings. Marissa Burkholder, a UF undergraduate student in the BS-DMD program, says she chose UFCD because of this program. Burkholder found her coursework challenging enough to prepare her for dental school.
“When I took the Dental Admission Test, I already felt that I didn’t have to do much preparation in addition to my courses,” Burkholder said. She says she also benefited from the collaboration between dental students and pre-dental students through multiple meetups each semester.
“I never felt a disconnect from students once they got into the program. They were always easy to follow up with and access if we had any questions,” Burkholder said.
Since UF is one of the top feeder schools to other dental schools throughout the country, Burkholder found resources and support to help her through pre-dental organizations, which helped with interpersonal communication and hand skills.
UF dental school looks for students who are leaders, have shown academic competency and have a passion for serving others. Interested in taking on this challenging yet rewarding program? Find out more at https://admissions.dental.ufl.edu/