REACHING OUT: Dental student Michael Simontacchi-Gbologah works with the School’s Short Term Enrichment Program, or STEP, to reach out to minority high school students from Girls High, Central High and other schools, to encourage them to think about dentistry as a career option. For a weekend, dental students talk to high schoolers about everything from what a dentist does to how to get into dental school. High school students also learn to how take impressions of teeth and pour models.
THE NEED: “There are 34 million African-Americans in this country—about 12 percent of the population. Only 1 percent of practicing dentists are African-American,” says Simontacchi-Gbologah. “[The goal is to] increase African-American and Hispanics and Native Americans in the field, to make it a viable career option. Hitting them in high school is the perfect opportunity.”
FOR UNDERGRADS: Simontacchi-Gbologah is also President of Penn Dental Medicine’s chapter of the Student National Dental Association, an organization that represents minority students enrolled at dental schools across the country, with a particular focus on encouraging undergraduates to pursue dental medicine as a career.
TOP HONORS: For his and Penn Dental’s efforts working with Penn and Temple undergrads, Penn’s chapter of the SNDA was awarded the honor of “Small Chapter of the Year” by the national organization.
WHY DENTISTRY?: Simontacchi-Gbologah says he had long been interested in medicine and was a chemistry major in college. But being in the lab just didn’t suit him. “I didn’t like not interacting with that many people,” he says. So he turned his attention to dentistry, which he says forces one to interact with people, allows him to build things and requires certain levels of artistry. “It’s the best of all three.”
GIVING BACK: “I just feel that growing up, I had opportunities given to me by other people—people reached out to me,” he says. “I really felt that to kind of give back in the same way is definitely a rewarding experience.”
HIS FUTURE: Currently in an externship at Albert Einstein, Simontacchi-Gbologah will apply to orthodontic residencies upon graduation in 2008.
Originally published Nov. 15, 2007.
Originally published on November 15, 2007