Improving Access to Oral Health Care for Underrepresented Populations

School of Dentistry’s Dean’s Scholarship for Opportunity benefits underprivileged students and communities.

José C.S.’s parents immigrated to the United States to pursue a better life but being undocumented meant he and his family encountered many hardships and had few resources for medical or dental care – or for pursuing higher education. 

Thanks to his outstanding academic record, José was accepted to the UCSF School of Dentistry, and thanks to a Dean’s Scholarship for Opportunity, he was able to afford dental school. 

More than two dozen students have received the scholarships since they were established in 2010 to assist exceptional students who had overcome challenging circumstances and who needed a financial boost in order to attend UCSF. 

“Not only does the Dean’s Scholarship for Opportunity program make it possible for underprivileged students to pursue their dreams, it also helps us improve the health of underserved communities,” says Michael Reddy, DMD, DMSc, dean of the UCSF School of Dentistry. “These students are driven to give back by working to increase access to oral health care and eliminate health disparities in their communities.” 

José says he gravitated toward a career in dentistry so he could make a difference for other immigrants. “I hope to create positive health outcomes for underserved families and help increase access to dental care, regardless of citizenship,” he says. 

The scholarships will assist even more students for years to come, thanks to the generosity of donors, including a significant gift from the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation to establish the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation Endowed Scholarship for Opportunity. 

“We were founded on access to care and improving oral health, and this partnership is a natural continuation of that mission,” says John Yamamoto, DDS ’92, MPH, dental director at Humana and former member of the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation board. “Looking at what these students accomplish is remarkable. I’m confident that these recipients will be the dental health leaders of tomorrow.” 

Marissa O., a first-generation college graduate and another Dean’s Scholarship for Opportunity recipient, says the scholarship went beyond financial help. “The Dean’s Scholarship for Opportunity helped relieve my financial burden of attending dental school, but it also provided me with overwhelming support, which I haven’t experienced in most areas of my life,” she says. “After I graduate, I plan to move back to my hometown of Fresno to help the underserved communities that lack the basic necessity of good dental care and bring restorative interventions, but more importantly, the education of prevention.” 

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