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DentStay Helps Minority Dental School Candidates Feel Welcome

Dinner with pre-dents: (left to right) Ramon Gutierrez (D3), Ngan Tran (D2), Yamrot Alemu (D2), Maxi- million Jensen (D3), Eric Brown (D2), Jennifer Villalta (pre-dent), Hannah Garcia (pre-dent), Whitney Bryant (pre-dent). Photo courtesy of DentStay.

By Angela Broad
Staff Writer

When Eric Brown and Yamrot Alemu were applying to dental schools, they would stay with students from campus minority organizations whenever possible, as a way to save money on housing before their interviews and gain valuable insight into campus life.

Now in their second year at UCSF School of Dentistry, they wondered why such a program didn’t exist here. So Brown, Alemu and classmate Ivy Fua, along with the Student National Dental Association (SNDA), formed DentStay this academic year.

The organization offers underrepresented minority (URM) students interviewees the opportunity to stay with a dental student of a similar background, relieving the candidates of the expense of staying in a hotel in San Francisco, which can cost several hundred dollars a night.

“Ivy Fua and I learned more about the program at SNDA's National Convention in the summer of 2013,” said Brown. “We both knew this could be a great opportunity for us to get involved with and help increase minority student matriculation here on campus.”

In addition to offering overnight lodging, a group of student hosts provide the prospective students with dinner the evening before their big day. In an informal atmosphere, SNDA members answer applicants’ questions about UCSF and try to ease the natural stresses of interviewing.

In this way, DentStay helps to better prepare URM students for their interviews, gives them an opportunity to spend time with dental students of similar backgrounds and ultimately, encourages them to matriculate at UCSF.

“Meeting members of the SNDA community help interviewees see that we are here to encourage and support them throughout their time in dental school,” said Alemu. “Students see that they will always receive help from the SNDA community. In addition, our members are able to answer last minute questions from the interviewees about the curriculum, outreach events and must-see places in San Francisco.”

Since October 2013, SNDA members have hosted more than 20 applicants at pre-interview dinners, overnight housing or both. A number of applicants who participated in the DentStay program have been accepted to UCSF and many more are currently awaiting the status of their acceptance.

SNDA has had an overwhelmingly positive response from applicants who participated in the DentStay program. SNDA hopes to continue supporting underrepresented minority students at UCSF in the future by improving the program in the coming years.

Looking toward the future, Brown said, “We are hoping to get more students involved in the dinners to show how diverse UCSF really is. The future is bright for this program. I would not be surprised to see it expand to other health professional schools here on campus.”

Angela Broad is a first-year medical student.