Innovative Connections

Dean Henry Gremillion, Sabrina Portwood, Brent Benoit and Dr. John Ritchie

The event was unlike any in the 42-year history of the LSU School of Dentistry. On a Saturday in the middle of winter, 175 college students from across Louisiana poured into the dental school to learn first-hand about the profession of dentistry. Members of the faculty, dental community, and students provided 28 presentations on topics such as how to apply and interview for dental school, financial aid, chalk carving, dental waxing, dental anatomy, CAD-CAM, the history of dentistry, dental hypnosis, dental forensics, careers in dentistry, and overviews of each of the dental specialties. In addition, the dental hygiene faculty spent the morning giving classroom presentations and a clinical orientation to about 45 pre-dental hygiene students. 

The idea for the event, entitled Pre-Dental 101: A Brush-Up On Dentistry came from two students at LSU in Baton Rouge, Sabrina Portwood and Brent Benoit. Both are leaders in the LSU Pre-Dental Society. About a year ago, Sabrina was among 25 student volunteers assisting dentists during a community outreach event in Baton Rouge. During that experience, she realized that students could make more informed decisions about their careers if they knew more about dentistry. This led to the idea of an all-day information event to be hosted by LSUSD and to which students from across Louisiana would be invited.

Sabrina and Brent worked up a plan that resulted in a 90-minute presentation to Dr. Henry Gremillion, dean, and Dr. John Ritchie, admissions director. From there, the idea took flight.

"Getting into dental school is very competitive," said Dr. Gremillion." This year, we received more than 600 applications for the Doctor of Dental Surgery program and could accept only 65 students."

Carrie Mason, director of the dental hygiene program, reports that the school usually receives 130 applications for 38 positions (32 for New Orleans and six for Lafayette).

Students are shown a demonstration of chalk carving which is part of the admissions testing.

The 175 students came from McNeese State University, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Louisiana Tech, University of Louisiana at Monroe, Centenary College, Southeastern University in Hammond, Xavier University, Loyola University, University of New Orleans, Southern University in New Orleans, LSU in Baton Rouge, LSU in Shreveport, Baton Rouge Community College and Delgado Community College. There were also four students from out-of-state colleges and one international student.

Dr. Ritchie urged the students to apply by October 1. He provided criteria used to evaluate dental school applications, how the admissions process works, what to expect on the interview day, and mistakes to avoid. Throughout the day, student affairs director Darlene Brunet organized tours of the school. Two of the most talked-about sessions were "How to Survive Freshman Year" by second-year student Brandon Mack and "Looking Back…Reflections of a Dental Student" by fourth-year student Jared Harris.

"Creating this kind of proactive, innovative educational event has been invigorating for all of the dental school faculty members and students who participated," said Dr. Gremillion. "The fact that there was a real need for this type of program was demonstrated by the tremendous turnout of pre-dental and pre-dental hygiene students. Based on feedback from the participants, it appears that this program went a long way towards meeting that need." Planning is under way to offer a similar event during the 2011-2012 academic year.

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