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The Common Thread

Explore inclusivity through these practical educational modules.

UAB. Inspiring equity and inclusive excellence every day.

Diversity is a defining feature of Birmingham's past, present, and future and is at the core of UAB values. It insures the excellent, inclusive, and welcoming environment that makes our university a great place to work, learn, and receive patient care. UAB’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion offers an array of programs and resources that support and promote diversity at UAB and help Birmingham and university trailblazers move inclusion forward.

Diversity as a Core Value

At the UAB School of Dentistry, we value a professional, ethical, inviting and supportive atmosphere for all. The school aims to increase, retain, and enhance faculty, staff, student, and patient diversity. To that end, we embrace diversity as a criterion of excellence, vigorously promote faculty, staff, and student diversity and inclusion at all levels of the university, and continue to explore ways to create a diverse and inclusive environment. We also actively foster and maintain effective external relations and collaborations within the city, state, and nation that enhance and support programs of diversity, equality, and inclusion. Through engaging faculty, staff, students, alumni and the community alike, we believe our accomplishments are attributable to the rich intellectual and culturally diverse ideas of our many constituents.

Strategic Goals & Actions

Goal 1: Access & Success

Goal:

Enhance recruitment, retention and graduation rates of students from underrepresented populations. Increase recruitment, hiring, retention and promotion of faculty and staff from underrepresented populations.

Developing a rich culture starts with a conscious, deliberate effort to recruit diverse students, faculty and staff who add depth of experience and worldviews to the organization. To achieve these results we created innovative recruitment programs. They include:

  • Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP) — a free six-week summer enrichment program focused on improving access to information and resources for college students from communities underrepresented in the health professions, including but not limited to, individuals who identify as African American, American Indian and Alaska Native, and Hispanic/Latino. These individuals are typically from socioeconomically and educationally disadvantaged communities. SHPEP offers students a number of academic and career experiences, including an introduction to inter-professional education that addresses effective collaboration across health professions.
  • Dent-Stay Program — pairs URM dental school applicants who have been selected for an interview with URM dental student volunteers giving applicants an opportunity to connect with someone they can identify with.
  • Dental Immersion Day — pipeline program to bring high school students of Hispanic/Latino origin to a Saturday immersive program in dentistry:
    • Lectures and pre-clinical dentistry activities for 25 students.
    • Concurrent program for parents to become familiar with college presentation and financial aid.
    • Held in cooperation with the Alabama State Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA).
  • Faculty Mentoring Program — for URM students interested in admission to dental school.
  • Impressions Program — hosted by the School’s national award winning Student National Dental Association (SNDA). The program exposes URM pre-dental college students to a career in dentistry through activities and interactions (lectures, PCD, DAT prep, seminars) that assist attendees in becoming stronger dental school applicants.

In addition to student recruitment, senior leadership personally interviews all final faculty and staff candidates as a part of the employee recruitment process. This helps further evaluate their attitude, effort and the sense of inclusion they would add to the culture we are working to build.

Goal 2: Positive Campus Environment

Goal:

Improve and sustain a culture where students, faculty, staff, alumni, community partners, friends and visitors feel included and supported.

UAB’s biennial Campus Engagement Survey provides the School of Dentistry with an invaluable, unbiased snapshot of the attitudes and behaviors — including thoughts, opinions, and comments — about what is really on the minds of faculty and staff. The analyzed results helped us identify what we are doing well and where we have opportunities for improvements.

We are committed to creating an environment of involvement, respect, and connection where the richness of ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives. As such, the 2019 survey results were shared with faculty and staff and school leaders have created opportunities for faculty and staff input to generate discussion on improving our culture. These opportunities include department meetings, school-wide faculty and staff meetings, focus groups and diversity education programs.

Goal 3: Diversity Education

Goal:

Improve and increase diversity education and training opportunities to enhance cross-cultural competency and awareness for students, faculty, staff, and members of the community.

The School of Dentistry believes in building a multicultural environment that embraces the uniqueness of all individuals and fosters a team environment. Our theory is that diversity of thought is a concept that is learned and can be taught while building a culture of inclusivity.

Our educational programs include:

  • The Common Thread — a diversity toolkit, designed in collaboration with the Schools of Medicine and Health Professions, to explore the concept of inclusivity within the UAB family and the part each of us play in its advancement
  • Title IX — a workshop on setting boundaries between faculty and students. This was required training for all full time faculty. Faculty found it to be engaging, informative, and impactful training
  • Human Trafficking — raised awareness of this modern form of slavery and the health care provider’s role, leading to protocols for recognizing and reporting suspected cases
  • Opioid Addiction — addressed the issues surrounding chronic pain management leading to changes in protocol for prescribing opioids
  • Dentistry Cultural Advancement Team (DCAT) — a series of programs designed for students, staff, and faculty, campus-wide, to come together in a casual setting to inspire thought and generate discussion on numerous topics including diversity, equity, and inclusion. This program provides attendees the opportunity to network together, get to know each other better, and helps us understand and value different perspectives.
  • Student Curriculum — first year dental students are introduced to cultural awareness through educational courses:
    • Ethics in Dentistry
    • Dentistry and Culture
    • Cultural Competency
    Through our more than twenty external and voluntary community rotation sites, the dental student experience is enriched by working with racially and ethnically diverse patients
  • Excellence in Continued Enrichment and Learning (EXCEL) — three or four times a year the School organizes a day of training for faculty and staff. Some of the program topics covered to date include:
    • Diversity Training — Cultural Awareness
    • Communication and Team Building
    • Backward Teaching Design
    • Sexual Harassment
    • Exceptional Service Experience
    • Rubrics as a Teaching Tool
    • Faculty Calibration
    • Critical Thinking

Goal 4: Campus & Community Engagement

Goal:

Serve the campus and Birmingham community by seeking, establishing, strengthening and sustaining relationships with diverse groups, businesses, industry, organizations, institutions and community partners to advance and promote equity and inclusion.

We believe community service and experiential learning are critical components of education because it provides students, faculty, and staff with a diverse experience they may otherwise never get. Programs include:

  • UAB Dentistry Cares Community Day — once a year the School of Dentistry partners with more than 300 community dentists and volunteers across campus to provide a free day of care for patients from local homeless and domestic abuse shelters in the Birmingham area.
  • UAB Community Month — an annual celebration of campus diversity was sponsored by the School of Dentistry with a campus-wide presentation of “The Common Thread.”
  • ALAHEDO — school diversity officers participate in an annual meeting of the Alabama Association of Higher Education Diversity Officers.
  • Portfolio Assessment — students develop and carryout group and individual community service projects. One of the outcomes is dental students come to understand access to dental care is not equitably distributed. Now, students willingly volunteer to spend 2-4 weeks providing care at 20 different underserved sites. Through these experiences, students are addressing an important aspect of equity and inclusion and opening the doors to equalize access to care.
  • Poverty Simulation — is a joint venture between the College of Arts and Sciences, Schools of Nursing, Health Professions, Public Health, Dentistry, Medicine and the UAB Health System through the Office of Inter-professional Simulation for Innovative Clinical Practice. At the end of the simulation, students break into small inter-professional groups to discuss their experience of living the life of a low income family.
  • Alabama Chapter of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship (ASF) — a 200-hour service project to improve the health of vulnerable people by developing a corps of emerging professionals who enter the workforce with the skills and commitment necessary to address unmet health needs. This year-long educational experience provides Fellows with the opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge and skills rarely found in traditional training.
  • International Women’s Day — an annual celebration of the economic, cultural, political and social achievements of women.
  • Lessons In A Lunchbox — an SNDA sponsored community oral health literacy program designed specifically for elementary schools:
    • Demonstrates proper oral hygiene and exposes students to dentistry.
    • Each student receives a lunch box of oral health brochures and goodies such as toothbrushes and toothpaste.
  • Give Kids A Smile — is an event to provide a free day of dental care to underserved children.
  • TeamSmile — partnership with the SOD and UAB Athletics to provide free oral health education, screening, and treatment to underserved children in the community.
  • UAB Grand Challenge — designed to energize the outstanding talent on and around our campus to participate in identifying and solving complex societal problems. The School of Dentistry faculty, in collaboration with the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Engineering and two SOD alumni, submitted two applications:
    • REACH (Re-engineering Equal Access to Comprehensive Healthcare)
    • Opioid Overdose Prevention and Treatment Using Precision Medicine

Goal 5: Communication

Goal:

Provide clear, cohesive and comprehensive communication regarding diversity, inclusion and equity to all university stakeholders.

Creating cross-functional teams comprised of men and women who are intergenerational and unique stimulates new thinking, which leads to greater creativity and possibilities. Where gaps and barriers in diversity and equity are identified, inclusion plays a vital role in addressing deficiencies. Our inclusive efforts include:

  • Food for Thought — meetings with students to gather their input on how to improve the student experience
  • Faculty Town Hall — meetings with faculty to gather their input on how to improve the faculty experience
  • Message From the Dean/Showcase of Success — email to faculty, staff, students, and alumni where we share our successes and various aspects of leadership and diversity
  • Faculty and Staff Meetings/Town Halls — a series of meetings where we share school and campus information, and encouraging feedback
  • Department Meetings
  • Focus Groups — small groups of faculty, staff, and students brought together for the purpose of improving the school’s culture
  • Digital Signage — use digital signage to communicate school and university-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives

Student Activities

Students connect with diverse communities beyond our borders by participating in the Student International Exchange Program and are provided opportunities to participate in a variety of organizations including UAB student chapters of the Student National Dental Association (SNDA), the Hispanic Dental Association (HSDA), The American Association of Women Dentists (AAWD) and the American Student Dental Association (ASDA). Recent and upcoming student activities include:

  • Student National Dental Association (SNDA)

    SNDA holds an annual Wax and Relax event where D1s receive tips and tricks on waxing from current prosthodontics residents before their first bridge exam of the year. Add in a little food and it makes for a fun and sociable evening.

    SNDA hosts several other activities during the fall semester:

    • Women to Women Brunch at the Birmingham Museum of Art that will allow current female dental students network with female dentists of color who are currently practicing in the Birmingham area.
    • Free dental screenings at Operation Help and Hope to serve the Birmingham area homeless.
    • G.R.A.C.E. Thanksgiving Luncheon shows appreciation for the Environmental Services staff at UAB SOD.
    • Sponsored an American Red Cross Blood Drive during a time of shortage.
  • Hispanic Dental Association (HSDA)

    HSDA holds their annual D1 Information Session where they let new students know what the organization can do for them in an effort to have a smoother transition going into clinic as well as volunteering and other social events.

    The group also provides HSDA members with Spanish terms that are commonly used in the clinic in order to facilitate the communication with their Spanish-speaking patients.

    In the spring semester, the group hosts their annual Salsa & Sangria for students and faculty. The event will be full of Hispanic food and salsa dancing, just to submerge everyone a bit in the Hispanic culture.

    In addition, they are currently speaking with Christ Health Center to create volunteer opportunities to help assist as well as translate, since the population of patients in this clinic is mainly Spanish speakers.

  • American Association of Women Dentists (AAWD)

    AAWD wrapped up this year’s Cake Off for the Cure on Oct 21. Faculty, staff, and students baked cakes and competed for the recognition of best tasting cake, most esthetic cake, and the best overall cake. It is always a fun event and together, the group raised $781 for the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.

    They host their First Light Women’s Shelter Breakfast on Sunday, Nov 24, where members cook and serve breakfast to the women and children at the shelter.

  • American Student Dental Association (ASDA)

    Alabama ASDA hosts multiple events throughout the year. Events include:

    • Project Homeless Connect allows dental students to perform dental exams for those less fortunate in the Birmingham community.
    • Miles for Smiles is an annual fall fun run that raised over $3000 for Cahaba Valley dental clinic this year.
    • In the coming months, ASDA will help host events to support the ADA initiative Give Kids A Smile.

Diversity Committee

The School of Dentistry Diversity Committee is comprised of a faculty, staff and student representatives who actively promote faculty, staff, and student diversity and inclusion and embraces diversity as a criterion for excellence. The committees work closely with the UAB Office of Equity and Diversity to ensure a coordinated strategy and message. In addition, the committee actively fosters and maintains effective external relations and collaborations in the city, state, and nation that enhance support for programs of diversity, equality, and inclusion.

The Diversity Committee also develops and implements strategies to ensure faculty and staff holding positions of authority and responsibility embrace the School’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and embrace diversity as a strength of the school. The committee produces programming to educate faculty, staff, and students on the importance of diversity and inclusion; and, on issues of equitable treatment of individuals and groups regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, age, culture, national origin, religious belief, physical abilities, sexual orientation, socioeconomic class, lifestyle preference, political conviction or other classifications. Members explore ways to create a diverse and inclusive environment that is inviting and sustaining for faculty, staff, and students and provide input into policies and procedures related to affirmative action and equal opportunity.

Committee Membership

  • Michelle Robinson, D.M.D., M.A. (Chair) (EA Officer) (2020)
  • Ed Bradford, D.D.S., M.P.H. (2021)
  • Kiran Chavali, B.D.S., M.S. (2019)
  • Sonya Mitchell, D.M.D., M.S.H.A. (2022)
  • Community Collaborations rep - Vacant
  • Charlene Paige (2022)
  • Danielle Clark: Student Diversity Officer (2022)
  • Madelyn Coar, D.M.D., M.S. (Past Chair) (ex officio)
  • Admissions rep - Vacant (ex officio)
  • David Wilson (AA Officer) (ex officio)
Diversity Organizational Chart - download PDF below for text.

Contact Us

Michelle Robinson, D.M.D., M.A.
Senior Associate Dean
Director of Diversity and Equity Action Officer
(205) 996-5393
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