Summer Mentorship Program Introduces High School Students to Dental Medicine


Philadelphia – Penn Dental Medicine once again hosted a group of high school students this summer as part of Penn’s Provost Summer Mentorship Program (SMP), introducing them to career possibilities within dentistry and to the higher-education environment.

This four-week, college-career immersion program, is aimed to inspire first-generation and under-represented minority students in Philadelphia to view higher education as an achievable goal. Students participate with the five professional schools at Penn, which in addition to Penn Dental Medicine include Penn’s School of Engineering & Applied Sciences, School of Law, Perelman School of Medicine, and School of Nursing. Penn Dental Medicine has been participating in the program since 2006, this year, hosting 12 students.

“This is an important pipeline program. A strong mentor and role model can play a vital role in encouraging students to pursue a college education and ultimately a dental career,” says Dr. Beverley Crawford, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, whose office oversees the SMP at Penn Dental Medicine. “By interacting with our current dental students, participants can build mentoring relationships that last long beyond the program.”

The program here at Penn Dental Medicine includes hands-on experiences in both the preclinical simulation lab and the advanced/virtual reality simulation lab. Activities range from creating wax-ups and impressions, and custom tray fabrication to wire bending and experiencing what it is like to use a hand piece to prepare a tooth and to create restorations. Participants also attend lectures presented by Penn Dental Medicine faculty – this year’s topics included infection control, dental laboratory technology, community oral health and volunteering, endodontics, pharmacology, radiology, cariology, and prosthodontics. In addition, students observed clinical care first hand, shadowing in a variety of clinics, including oral surgery and pediatrics. They also learned how to prepare a CV and got tips on interview techniques.

This year, Penn Dental Medicine students Alfred Guo, D’22, and Uchenna Ndukwe, D’22, served as the SMP coordinators, planning the daily program of activities for the participants and helping to instruct in some of the hands-on components.

“The SMP provides great leadership opportunity for rising second-year dental students who work as SMP Coordinators,” says Dr. Crawford. “They have almost complete responsibility for the students and the program.”

There are also program activities, both social and educational, planned by Penn’s Office of the Vice Provost of University Life, which oversees the SMP, that bring all the SMP participants across Penn together.

Since 2009, 255 out of 276 SMP alumni are either currently enrolled at or have graduated from a postsecondary institution, including fourth-year Penn Dental Medicine student Melanie Grajales, D’20, who participated in the program as a high school student and attended Lehigh University as an undergraduate before entering Penn Dental Medicine.