Christina Rosenthal, DDS, MPH, knows firsthand how hard it can be for a minority student from a disadvantaged background to consider a career in health care. Dr. Rosenthal came from a low-income background in North Memphis, and graduated from the College of Dentistry at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in 2005, thanks to many mentors who helped her along the way. Now, she is determined to help young minority and underrepresented students achieve what she has done.
On Saturday, Aug. 27, more than 100 students, ages 14-18, are expected to attend the annual Determined to be a Doctor Someday (D.D.S.) Symposium, a conference founded by Dr. Rosenthal to encourage promising students interested in careers in the health professions. The symposium, supported by UTHSC, is open to students of any racial background who are financially disadvantaged or are underrepresented in health care professions. The event is free to the students, who had to apply and write an essay in order to be selected to participate.
The symposium will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Student Alumni Center, 800 Madison Avenue. State Rep. Raumesh Akbari, who recently spoke at the National Democratic Convention, will deliver the keynote address.
The students will have the opportunity to meet physicians, dentists, nurses and other health care professionals, and learn about their work. They will receive guidance on educational requirements and opportunities available in health care.
Delta Dental of Tennessee has contributed $10,000 from its philanthropic arm, Smile 180 Foundation, to help support the symposium and aid in planning of future D.D.S. programs.
Minorities are underrepresented in the health care workforce, a fact believed to be key in racial and ethnic health disparities. Dr. Rosenthal said she started the Determined to be a Doctor Someday program while a member of the 2010-11 class of the American Dental Association Institute for Diversity Leadership in order to help change that trend.
She designed Determined to be a Doctor Someday as a six-month educational and mentoring program to stimulate and encourage minority and economically disadvantaged youths interested in health care careers. The symposium serves as an introduction to the program.
The owner of Paradigm Dental Center in southeast Memphis, Dr. Rosenthal graduated from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in 2015 with a master’s degree in public health with a concentration in management and policy. Her background is a major motivation for her success. She says she didn’t see a dentist until she was 13 years old. Her first dental visits were with African-American female dentists, who influenced her career path.
Delta Dental contributed to the program after its President and CEO Philip Wenk, DDS, a 1977 graduate of the UTHSC College of Dentistry, read about Dr. Rosenthal. “Her program fits perfectly into the education component of our Smile 180 Foundation, and it encourages a new generation of dentists and doctors in Tennessee,” said Shanda Brown, vice president, Quality Monitoring and Improvement with Delta Dental.
“Dr. Rosenthal is humble, gracious and a dynamic advocate for giving back to the community,” she said. “We are honored to partner with her and incredibly excited to help her as helps so many deserving Tennesseans.”
Taylor Wilson was in the D.D.S. program during her senior year in high school. Now, she is a first-year medical student at UTHSC. “I joined the program because I wanted to get some resources for pursuing medical school and meet people that are currently practicing medicine,” said Wilson, who recently received her white coat signifying the start of her medical education. “The program was really great because I got some great advice for the steps it takes to get to medical school. Due to the D.D.S. program, I also got the opportunity to participate in a program called the Tennessee Institutes for Pre-Professionals during the summer after senior year. It is a paid internship that allows students to shadow community physicians. I think my path to medical school would have been hindered without the D.D.S. program.”