A Sept. 10 announcement about a new program brought smiles to the faces of pre-dental students looking to gain valuable hands-on experience on the road to a career in dentistry.
FIU and Delta Dental Insurance Company announced a partnership that will give 14 junior- and senior-level undergraduates an opportunity to shadow a dentist within Delta Dental’s network in South Florida.
The partnership is important because dental schools require applicants to have such experience before applying. The new partnership takes the pressure off of FIU’s pre-dental students to find their own shadowing opportunities. In addition to gaining real-world experience in the field, students will be able to request a shadowing experience within a specific dental specialty of their choosing (i.e. pediatric dentistry, general dentistry).
“I’m very excited and very proud of what we’re about to move forward on. Doing this program here at FIU is a big deal,” said Gregory Thomas, coordinator of Pre-Medical Programs at FIU. “Our students want to make a change right now. They don’t want to wait for the next generation. They want to do everything they can to make changes for their families, their city and their community.”
Beginning this semester, students taking part in the program will shadow dentists for a minimum of three hours per week as part of a semester-long commitment to the program. When the semester ends, both dentists and students will complete an evaluation form to assess the students’ performance and experience.
“We try to get them engaged with their career because until you’re there working with the smells, the sights and the sounds, you’re not sure if this is really for you,” said John Landrum, director of the Office of Pre-Health Professions Advising. “You really need to see what it’s like to be that professional; see what they’re dealing with and how an office is run. This is their opportunity to learn what it’s like in a professional environment.”
Junior biology major Esteban Parada attended a meet-and-greet reception with Delta Dental representatives Sept. 10 at Modesto A. Maidique Campus. He said he’s excited about learning from practicing dentists.
“It looks like a great opportunity to get that full experience, something I’ve never had before and hopefully we’ll represent FIU in a good way,” said Parada, who wants to become a general dentist. “It gives me a chance to know what I’m getting into.”
A representative from Delta Dental said the company would like to see the partnership grow in the coming years.
“We see it as a way to help educate the dentists of tomorrow,” said Elizabeth Risberg, director of Public Affairs for Delta Dental. “We know there is no substitute for experience, and we love helping out in the community. And what better way of helping out than providing this opportunity?”