The Clifton O. Dummett Sr. Essay Competition on Diversity in Dentistry & Dental Education announced the winning essayists on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2021. Jacob Martin, a first year D.M.D. student, won Magna Honors for his submission.

Jacob Martin sitting outside the School of Dentistry.

The contest celebrated the legacy of the late Dr. Dummett, a pioneer in dentistry and dental education. Entries were focused on diversity, dental education, and the dental profession. Specifically, essays addressed race relations in the profession through the lens of editorials written in the National Dental Association Bulletin 1953-1975.

Crediting the school’s Dentistry and Culture course held early in the first year, Martin said he was inspired to submit an entry. The course, which offers an introduction to health and illness as a socio-cultural phenomenon, is taught by instructors with broad experience in the area of health-related sociology. It explores health disparities by class, gender, race, ethnicity, and place of residence, along with their causes and consequences.

Martin said the course reminded him how far our country has yet to go toward justice and equality for all. “I became aware of startling facts that, before taking the class, I had only thought of as historical in context,” he shared. The essay then gave him an opportunity to apply what he learned. Acknowledging the historical perspective of Dr. Dummett's editorials, Martin was able to express his thoughts in the context of challenges facing the dentist today in the ethical and socially conscious delivery of health services.

On how to initiate change Martin wrote, “The answer is simple: it only takes one action, one letter, one word. It only takes you.” He said he hopes that, through his essay, he can help educate others and inspire them to be the change they want to see in dentistry.

Students can look for future essay opportunities like this one.