A $1.2 million grant will help the USC dental school increase its number of minority students, doctors and patients in underserved areas. Funds will expand community-based practice sites and improve access to oral health care.
By Ben Creighton
Roseann Mulligan, associate dean of community health and principal investigator for the grant.

A $1.2 million grant from the California Endowment will allow the USC School of Dentistry to recruit and retain underrepresented minority students.

The funds also will build upon the school’s efforts to provide oral health care in underserved areas.

The four-year grant will provide funds that permit the school to take part in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pipeline, Profession & Practice: Community Based Dental Education project.

The project ? which began with 10 U.S. schools in 2002 ? focuses on increasing access to dental care and education for underserved minorities by building cooperative relationships among participating dental schools.

“The grant has a three-fold mission to increase minority students, doctors and patients,” said Niel Nathason, USC associate professor and project director for the PPP grant. “By increasing the number of minority practitioners, you will improve service to minorities and increase access to care for those who need it most.”

The grant provides funds for recruitment and retention of minority and low- income dental students, as well as the expansion of community-based practice sites, which will improve access to oral health care for underserved populations. In addition, a portion of the funding is earmarked for evaluating the effectiveness of the program.

“The idea is not so much to create a program that serves only your school, but to create one that serves the entire profession,” said Roseann Mulligan, USC associate dean of community health and principal investigator for the grant.

At the service level, the grant will help support the development of an infrastructure for considerably expanding community rotations to underserved communities.

Nathason and Mulligan have taken the opportunity provided by the grant to establish contact with several clinics and communities where local-needs assessments have determined that oral health care is a priority. They also are looking to create such a clinic within the dental school.

Both agree that cooperation between the dental schools in California is paramount to the success of the program. They will be asking alumni to serve as adjunct faculty for their external programs and looking for support from private community health-based clinics.

Created in 1996, the California Endowment is a private, statewide health foundation that expands access to quality health care for the underserved. This year, it provided funding to allow all California dental schools to take part in the project.

Contact Ben Creighton at (213) 821-5344.