For the ninth straight year, the University of Florida College of Dentistry was recognized with an INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity, or HEED, Award for its consistent best practices to build an inclusive environment, not only for the college’s students, residents, faculty and staff, but for the patients and communities it serves through the UF Statewide Network for Community Oral Health.
“The HEED Award selection process is rigorous, assessing the recruitment and retention of students and faculty, pathway programs, community partnerships, leadership support for DEI initiatives, and a comprehensive list of other considerations,” Publisher Lenore Pearlstein said. “The winning institutions consistently demonstrate best practices and set the standards for other colleges and universities.”
The college is one of just two dental schools in the country that received this year’s award, and UFCD is honored to be one of two colleges at UF, including the College of Pharmacy, to ever receive the award.
“Nine consecutive INSIGHT Into Diversity HEED Awards is truly an accomplishment for the UF College of Dentistry. This consistent recognition is a direct reflection of our efforts – from the top down – living out our college’s mission, vision and values daily to cultivate a culture of dignity, respect, support and compassion, fostered through a diverse and inclusive environment. port and compassion, fostered through a diverse and inclusive environment,” Associate Dean for Student Advocacy & Inclusion Patty Probert, Ph.D., said. “Our main goal for the upcoming year is to increase efforts towards wellness and sense of belonging for all members of our college community.”Associate Dean for Student Advocacy & Inclusion Patty Probert, Ph.D.
“Nine consecutive INSIGHT Into Diversity HEED Awards is truly an accomplishment for the UF College of Dentistry. This consistent recognition is a direct reflection of our efforts – from the top down – living out our college’s mission, vision and values daily to cultivate a culture of dignity, respect, support and compassion, fostered through a diverse and inclusive environment,” Associate Dean for Student Advocacy & Inclusion Patty Probert, Ph.D., said. “Our main goal for the upcoming year is to increase efforts towards wellness and sense of belonging for all members of our college community.”
The UF College of Dentistry’s efforts can be characterized into three main areas: recruitment, internal initiatives and resources, and serving our patients throughout our communities and state. UFCD is continuously working to remove academic barriers, along with barriers to accessing care for our statewide patients.
- Recruitment efforts have flourished under the leadership of UFCD’s Office of Admissions & Financial Aid and its Associate Dean Pamela Sandow, D.M.D., with efforts to host pre-dental outreach events and open houses for underrepresented students, resulting in an increase in diversity of the UFCD student body. As a result, the college’s underrepresented minority enrollment rate surpasses the national average. In 2022-2023, UFCD’s Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino first-time enrollees totaled 29%, while the national average for those same demographics was 16.5%.
- An increase in recruitment scholarship funds designated by College of Dentistry Dean A. Isabel Garcia, D.D.S., M.P.H., institutional leadership and private support in the form of gifts from alumni and friends, has strengthened the college’s efforts to recruit highly-qualified and diverse candidates.
- Under the leadership of Probert in the Office of Student Advocacy & Inclusion, UFCD is also home to two critical pathway programs, the Summer Health Professions Education Program and Keys to Success, both of which provide opportunities for underrepresented students across the country, and at UF, interested in the health professions.
- Cultivating and establishing a welcoming and respectful environment where students, residents, faculty and staff all feel they belong is a top priority for the college. UFCD has numerous student groups that enable students to discover a sense of home at UFCD with fellow students and residents from similar backgrounds and/or interests. UFCD offers free tutoring for students, accommodations for religious holidays, and a number of resources to support students and residents through their academic journey – including counseling, and crisis and wellness programming and resources. This past year, the college enhanced its centrally-located Serenity Room, utilized for rest, reflection and prayer, to include a self-care cabinet.
- UFCD continuously assesses and increases actions to cultivate an environment that celebrates, and expects, inclusive excellence, including faculty and staff assemblies, and student town halls, from which feedback is directly implemented. In the last two years, the college drafted and approved an antidiscrimination statement that was widely distributed. A faculty and staff workgroup, developed in 2020, works on initiatives that continue cultivating a model academic environment at UFCD, and foster understanding, collaboration, professionalism and leadership. Utilizing the college’s last climate survey, the workgroup recently completed faculty focus groups to garner feedback on areas we’re succeeding and areas to improve.
- Through the UF Statewide Network for Community Oral Health, UFCD serves the oral health care needs of patients from all 67 counties in Florida each year. That includes five college-owned dental centers in Gainesville, Naples, Hialeah, St. Petersburg and Wildlight in Yulee, Florida, as well as a network of 10+ community health partners throughout the state. An emphasis on access to care for special needs patients is a focus at the NCEF Pediatric Dental Center in Naples, and at the college’s centers in St. Pete and Hialeah, through the generous support of several community partners to make a transformational difference in the lives and oral health of patients that require special accommodations.
The rigorous Health Professions HEED Award application process includes an application with questions related to the recruitment and retention of students and employees, best practices for both, and continued leadership support to ensure diverse, robust and welcoming environments that enable faculty, staff, students, residents and patients from all walks of life to feel valued and respected.
View the list of winners and learn more about INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine and the HEED Award online.