Opening Doors: Health Resources & Services Administration Grants

Without question, dentistry is a highly rewarding profession, and the UF College of Dentistry is a leader in quality of education and clinical experience. Increasing the delivery of oral health care to underserved individuals and communities in Florida is one of the top priorities in the college’s three-part mission that includes education, research and patient care.

Becoming a dentist comes at a cost, and the reality of future debt for dental students can present a huge burden to aspiring dentists. According to the American Dental Education Association, or ADEA, U.S. dental graduates in 2016 had an average of $261,000 of debt, and over 30 percent of indebted dental school graduates in the same year reported debt in excess of $300,000.

For comparison, according to U.S. News & World Report’s average indebtedness of medical school graduates in 2015, medical students graduating from the UF College of Medicine incurred an average of $150,000 in debt, while Nova Southeastern University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine student debt topped the list at $259,000.

That is why the Health Resources & Services Administration, or HRSA, Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students, or SDS, are so important for our UFCD students. These scholarships enable the UFCD to recruit and retain the most talented students, thereby improving access to health professions education and fostering a diversified health workforce. They also reduce student debt so that scholarship recipients are more likely to provide care in underserved areas after graduation. The UFCD Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, under the leadership of assistant dean Pamela Sandow, D.M.D., was awarded a second consecutive four-year grant in July 2016.

HRSA’s latest SDS award will total nearly $2.6 million from 2016-20. A total of $647,979 was designated for the 2016-17 academic year, with recommended future support for the same amount each academic year until 2019-20.

The UFCD was the only unit at UF to receive the award both terms, and also was one of three dental schools in the country for 2012-16 and one of five dental schools across the country for 2016-20 receiving these highly competitive HRSA grant awards.

Da Costa, his wife Irene, and their four boys.

In total, that’s over $5 million in funding over eight years and over 300 scholarships awarded to UFCD students. Take senior Walmir Da Costa, who graduated with his D.M.D. in May. Da Costa is a nontraditional dental student who has been married to his high school sweetheart for 13 years.

“The reality of higher debt was a strong consideration in my decision to continue my education,” Da Costa said. “But scholarships have been a huge help for me and my family and I am grateful I can continue to pursue my dream of becoming a pediatric dentist.”