Black and Hispanic predoctoral dental students’ perceptions and considerations of careers in academic dentistry

Lorel E. Burns, Mark Makiling, Cheryline Pezzullo, Tiffany E. Wilson, Elizabeth S. Hamilton, Gerald Davis, Eleanor Fleming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Dental schools aim to train and support a diverse dentist workforce. Among all faculty, full-time and part-time faculty who identify as members of historically underrepresented groups are 13.9% and 8.4%, respectively. The recruitment and retention of faculty is a known challenge, with growing faculty vacancies at dental schools. This study explored dental student perceptions of academic careers, specifically focusing on Black and Hispanic predoctoral students. Methods: From August to November 2022, we conducted focus group with second-, third-, and fourth-year predoctoral dental students who identified as Black or Hispanic using a semi-structured interview guide that was developed for this study. Data were analyzed using inductive thematic analysis. Results: Four themes emerged: (1) students perceived academic dental dentistry as inclusive but not diverse spaces for Black and Hispanic people; (2) academic dental careers were perceived as secondary careers; (3) academic dental careers were perceived as a career option with a lack of autonomy and less income, compared to clinical practice in other settings; (4) students expressed a lack of knowledge about pathways to academic dental careers. Despite these challenges, students expressed interest in academic dental careers and noted being inspired by younger faculty members. Conclusion: Dental schools must do more to encourage dental students to consider careers in academic dentistry. Pathway programs, mentoring, and the presentation of academic careers as a viable career option for students by faculty should be further emphasized practices. Increasing the diversity of faculty members is also key. Students cannot be who they cannot see.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)480-489
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of dental education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2024


  • diversity
  • faculty
  • minority recruitment
  • professional interest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Dentistry


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