The University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD) Student National Dental Association (SNDA) chapter achieved a major milestone in July, winning the chapter of the year award in the “large” category of institutions during the National Dental Association (NDA) annual conference held in Atlanta, Georgia, the first time this has happened in this chapter’s history.
The NDA is a professional association of minority dentists initially formed in 1913, and is the largest association of its type in the world. The NDA’s primary mission is to extend dental treatment and education to impoverished, disabled or minority populations.
The UMSOD SNDA chapter has a successful track record improving the lives of minority and underserved populations through public service in the Baltimore area. In 2014, they won chapter of the year in the “medium” category of institutions. In 2015, they were runners-up, again in the medium category. Despite moving up to the large category for 2016, the SNDA was determined to win Chapter of the Year through significantly increased fundraising efforts and outreach events, which are the major criteria used to determine winners.
“When we finished second, we knew immediately what we had to do in order to get to first,” said Marla Yee ’17, Vice President.
The result was an exemplary 2015-16 in which the SDNA chapter elevated their efforts across the board. On the surface, the numbers are impressive: they conducted over 14 community service events at neighboring elementary schools, local health fairs, and markets. In addition, they hosted each of the NDA’s signature programs, including: Impressions Day, where they coordinated events for under-represented pre-dental students; Lessons in a Lunchbox, where they packed 10,000 lunches boxed for distribution nationwide; and most importantly, the Oral Cancer Walk, which had 230 participants and raised $23,796.
The major fundraising success of the Oral Cancer Walk likely set the SDNA “over the edge” to win chapter over the year, according to President Valencia Barnes ’17, given the importance of fundraising in the NDA’s scoring criteria.
While the SDNA’s ability to secure partnerships and raise money for large events was a major factor in winning the Chapter of the Year award, Barnes stressed the importance of the lesser-known outreach efforts that helped to build trust and appreciation in the community.
“You have to take small strides to start and make your presence known, which is we’ve done within the area around the UMSOD campus.”
Barnes highlighted the walking school bus activity as one smaller but critical effort. Similar to what has been utilized by the Promise Heights Initiative, SNDA representatives partnered with the Maryland Association of Pediatric Dentists (MAPD) to meet children and parents on street corners and escort them to school on Mondays and Fridays (days where absenteeism rates are highest for local schools). As a result of this outreach, attendance on these days increased for several schools.
These smaller steps have helped build a strong, lasting connection between the SDNA chapter and local residents in Baltimore City. As part of SDNA’s continued success, Both Yee and Barnes credit UMSOD for showing an ongoing commitment to enrolling and supporting under-represented minorities, and both singled out Andrea Morgan, DDS, dental recruitment coordinator in the Office of Admissions, and Dr. Isabella Rambob, DDS, clinical associate professor in the Department of General Dentistry, in particular for their leadership. For Dr. Morgan, this appreciation is reciprocal.
“For the SDNA to win, particularly against the major programs in the ‘large’ category, is a huge compliment to their efforts,” Morgan.