Special to The Sun
OKLA. CITY —
The Delta Dental of Oklahoma Oral Health Foundation announced the 2012 recipients of the University of Oklahoma - College of Dentistry Scholarship Fund. The 12 recipients (of $5,000 each) are:
1. Lauren Bowers, Shawnee
2. David Gore, Bartlesville
3. Philip Gray, Edmond
4. Jennifer Headrick, Mooreland
5. Manoj Jain, Claremore
6. Priyanka Kulkarni, Mumbai, India
7. Amy Liu, Wuhan, China
8. Andrew Minnigh, Shawnee
9. Melissa Nguyen, Oklahoma City
10. Brett Wilson, Burns Flat
11. Lauren Yeary, Norman
12. Heather Zweifel, Sand Springs
The foundation’s annual scholarship fund was established in 2001 to encourage future enrollment in the OU College of Dentistry, and, to help address a projected shortage of dentists in Oklahoma over the next 15 years. Oklahoma currently has an estimated 41 dentists per 100,000 people — the national average is 58 per 100,000.
“Approximately 20 percent of the more than 1,600 practicing dentists in Oklahoma are 60 years of age or older and Oklahoma faces a potential shortage of dentists in the future,” said Stephen K. Young, D.D.S., M.S. and Dean of the OU College of Dentistry. “This scholarship fund, combined with the Delta Dental of Oklahoma Foundation’s longstanding financial commitment to the OU College of Dentistry, helps ensure that we continue our mission of producing high quality dental practitioners to serve the people of Oklahoma.”
In the mid-1980s there was a concern nationally that the number of dentists graduating was exceeding the need. Consequently, seven dental schools closed across the nation. Today, the number of graduates is about 2,000 per year less than it was in 1980.
“Producing highly skilled dentists in Oklahoma is something we can never take for granted. We are very fortunate to be able to work in tandem with the OU College of Dentistry to help meet this need for generations of Oklahomans to come,” said John Gladden, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Oklahoma.
The foundation’s scholarship fund, which has awarded $470,000 to date, assists current dental students with the major financial burden they face, while recognizing those candidates who have also demonstrated outstanding academic excellence, commitment to the community, and exceptional professional potential. The average dental student faces $200,000 in debt upon graduation.
“These students stand out as exceptional scholars, but further distinguish themselves as dental professionals committed to practicing in Oklahoma upon graduation. We feel very fortunate to be able to sponsor such promising young Oklahomans,” said Gladden.
The University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry graduated its first class in 1976. Since then, there have been nearly 2,000 graduates from the pre-doctoral dental program.
About 60-70 percent of these individuals are practicing in Oklahoma. The college admits 56 students per year to the pre-doctoral program.