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Grant to provide financial assistance to dental students in need

Published: November 20th, 2012

Category: Community Outreach, Features, News

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida College of Dentistry has received a four-year, $ 2.5 million grant that will help provide financial assistance to the college’s disadvantaged students.

Health Resources and Services Administration, or HRSA, Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students awarded the college $645,000 for the current academic year, with recommended future support of $645,000 per year for the next three years — totaling more than $2.5 million over four years.

“We were awarded exactly the amount that we requested,” said Pamela Sandow, D.M.D., assistant dean for admissions and financial aid in the UF College of Dentistry. “The grant application indicated that the award would be around $495,000 annually, but we received $645,000, so it’s a huge accomplishment for our college to receive this money for our students.”

The College of Dentistry was the only UF college to receive the funding this year, Sandow said.

The award will provide individual $15,000 scholarships to 43 students who have faced financial and location obstacles to gaining the skills and abilities to enrolling in and graduating from health professions schools. Awards will be based on HRSA Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students’ established guidelines, and students will be evaluated on a yearly basis. Students must complete the Free Application for Student Federal Aid, or FAFSA, and the University of Florida College of Dentistry Financial Aid Form to be considered.

The award will help the college recruit and retain qualified students from disadvantaged backgrounds, which not only will improve access to health professions education, but also will help foster a diversified health workforce, Sandow said.

Another aim of the grant, she said, is to reduce student debt so that scholarship recipients will be more likely to move to underserved areas to provide dental care.

“Sometimes (students) must make economic decisions for loan repayment rather than practicing in an underserved area where they might receive less income,” she said. “If they have less debt, hopefully they will tend to gravitate toward areas where there is an underserved population, where there are fewer dentists to take care of people who need dental work.

A committee within the college will review applications and provide awards to eligible students beginning in this spring. The committee includes Patricia Xirau-Probert, the college’s director of  student and multicultural affairs; Venita Sposetti, D.M.D., associate dean for education; Thomas Kolb, student financial aid coordinator; Stacy Buford, admissions coordinator; and Sandow.

In previous years, UF applied for HRSA grant awards and then allocated the funds to each health profession. However, this year each college was required to submit its own grant application, Sandow said.

“When I took this position, one of my goals was to increase funding for our dental students, to increase grant money or scholarship money,” Sandow said. “So when we saw this opportunity we seized it. We didn’t have a lot of time to do it, but our staff got together and worked really hard to achieve the goal.”

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UF&Shands, The University of Florida Academic Health Center, is the most comprehensive of its kind in the Southeast. It comprises the colleges of Dentistry, Public Health and Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Veterinary Medicine, and an academic campus in Jacksonville that offers graduate education programs in dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy. Patient care activities, under the banner UF&Shands, are provided through teaching hospitals and a network of clinics in Gainesville and Jacksonville. The Academic Health Center also has a statewide presence through satellite medical, dental and nursing clinics staffed by UF health professionals; and affiliations with community-based health-care facilities stretching from Hialeah and Miami to the Florida Panhandle.