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NYU College of Dentistry Establishes Dr. Gerald W. Deas Scholarship Award Aims to Increase the Number of Underrepresented Groups in Dentistry

New Scholarship Aims to Increase the Number of Underrepresented Groups in Dentistry
Dr. Michael C. Alfano, Dean of the NYU College of Dentistry (NYUCD), has announced the establishment of a four-year, $100,000 scholarship in the name of Gerald W. Deas, MD, a physician, patient advocate, media personality, social activist, and public health crusader. The Gerald W. Deas, MD, Scholarship in Dental Education seeks to increase the number of underrepresented young people pursuing careers in dentistry by working with community leaders to identify highly qualified individuals from underrepresented groups and to motivate them to choose dentistry as a career option.

“Minority entry into the dental profession is slipping – a downward trend that is particularly disturbing with regard to African Americans,” said Dean Alfano. “In the U.S. as a whole, African Americans comprise 13 percent of the population, but represent only 3.5 percent of the dentists, making them the most drastically underrepresented professional group in our nation. In New York State, where African Americans represent nearly 16 percent of all New Yorkers, they account for only two percent of the state’s dentists. Recent studies, including one by the Institute of Medicine, have concluded that disparities in health care for minorities are caused, in part, by a lack of representation within the health professions. This new award mechanism is designed to begin to change the demographics within dental education so that the profession can be more diverse.”

The award operates on the premise that key community leaders are heroes to the young people they interact with and can positively influence their career choices. To be eligible for the program, an applicant must be identified and personally recommended by an invited community leader who has demonstrated a commitment to increasing the diversity of the dental profession. The applicant must then be accepted by NYUCD on the basis of strong academic credentials and financial need. If these criteria are met, the applicant becomes eligible to receive a scholarship in the community leader’s name.

In addition to maintaining a solid academic record, the program requires each scholarship recipient to spend a specific number of hours doing outreach and mentoring high school students in underrepresented groups.
The first recipient of the inaugural Gerald W. Deas, MD, Scholarship is Marcus Johnson, a graduate of Rutgers University, who will begin his dental studies at NYU in fall 2004.

For over 40 years, Dr. Deas has been one of New York City’s most respected and dedicated physician-educators, and an icon within the city’s African-American community. A professor of preventive medicine and director of health education communication at Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, and an “old fashioned country doctor,” as The New York Times described him, Dr. Deas is adept at networking and using the media to foster public health awareness. The first black medical columnist for the New York Daily News, Dr. Deas was the medical reporter for television’s “McCreary Report” and a weekly radio show on WLIB. He continues to write a weekly column for the Amsterdam News and other local newspapers, and is the host of “Health Center,” a cable TV show produced on the Downstate campus. Dr. Deas has consistently used his bully pulpit to alert the public about both medical and dental health hazards. Last year he devoted two of his TV shows to championing dentistry as an attractive career option for young people, and also sponsored outreach led by minority NYU dental students to local high schools that offer strong programs in the sciences and a large African-American student population, including Science Skills High School, in Brooklyn.

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