Although the number of women in higher education is growing, they have yet to achieve equity. This gap is prominent in dentistry, where men outnumber women in school and in practice. In the 1960s, 10 percent of students in medical, law and MBA programs were women. In the 1990s, the number of graduate student women began to outnumber men.
Dear Hidden Figures,
Perhaps you have seen the new motion picture that describes the life of Katherine Johnson, an African-American math prodigy who grew up in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia. She grew up counting numbers and manually computing equations. In 1953 she began working for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), later known at NASA. She joined hundreds of other women as a human computer. Pre-dating Apple or Microsoft, these women helped to win the race to space. As a math computer, she completed calculations for Alan Shepard, John Glenn, the Apollo moon landing mission, and the start of the space shuttle program.
This article originally appeared as a cover story in the March 2015 issue of ASDA News. At the time, Laura Albarracin was her chapter’s legislative liaison. To read more from ASDA’s print publication, Contour, click here.
Before the 1970s, dentistry was a male-dominated profession. Women were not admitted to dental school solely based on gender. However, this did not stop determined people from breaking stereotypes. That decade marked a time when the world was changing. Two catalytic moments were the women’s liberation and civil rights movements of the 1960s and early 1970s. This movement resulted in an increase in federal grants, which led way to an increase of female enrollments in professional health schools. According to an article written by Dr. Lynn D. Carlisle on Spiritofcaring.com, the women of the 1970s used this moment to forever change the landscape of the medical and dental fields.
As a high school senior, I had an opportunity to interview for a collegiate scholarship, during which I discussed my aspirations for a career in dentistry with an all-male panel of judges. I remember being asked, “Why don’t you want to be a dental hygienist or an assistant? Aren’t those the typical roles in dentistry for a female?”
I was taken aback. I was sure that it wasn’t their intention to instill self-doubt in a woman pursuing a career in a male-dominated industry. However, I couldn’t help but feel as if I was being relegated to another career, based strictly on traditional gender roles.
As fourth year dental students, we completed our clinical outreach requirements at the University of Bergen (UiB) in Norway through an international exchange program. We treated patients in the clinic, made many wonderful friendships and traveled the beautiful country of Norway. The combination of clinical practice, learning and working in an international health care setting led us to one of the most rewarding experiences in dental school. We strongly recommend that students take advantage of any opportunity to participate in dentistry in a novel setting as a way to expand your perspective and potentially practice dentistry abroad. The opportunity to explore various techniques and materials, and to improve patient communication skills, helped us to grow as health practitioners. Most importantly, we became more independent. For us, participating in this program changed our lives and our careers.
In the wake of the recent high profile police brutality cases, protests have erupted all around the country. Many of the protests have been highly visible, like the Millions March in Washington DC or NBA players showing support with “I can’t breathe” shirts.
A unique movement, “White coats for Black lives”, staged “die-ins” at over 70 universities in the effort to draw a parallel to the racial bias in police to the iniquities in the health of people of color. Physicians for a National Health Program organized the movement using social media and the hashtag #Whitecoats4Blacklives. Most protests were conducted with the full support or administrators and school deans. The events involved medical students laying en masse on the floor of campus grounds, libraries, and public spaces. Some protestors carried signs saying, “#publichealthcrisis” and “End Police Brutality.” The initiative hopes to open a dialogue and draw attention to poor health outcomes for minorities in the United States and systematic racism in health care education, administration, and delivery.