Group ‘deeply regrets’ past discrimination
The American Dental Association has issued an acknowledgment that it deeply regrets not taking a stronger stand against discriminatory membership practices during the pre-civil rights era.
Dr. Raymond Gist, ADA president, said the Oct. 29 announcement reinforces the dental association’s commitment to a diverse and inclusive profession, moving us forward in a new spirit of collaboration to advance the dental profession and the oral health of the public.
“In looking forward, we also must look back,” said Gist, the first African American to serve as ADA president. “Along with acknowledging past mistakes and to build a stronger, collaborative platform for future accomplishments, the ADA apologizes to dentists for not strongly enforcing non-discriminatory membership practices prior to 1965. These are not my words alone—they embody a resolution adopted by the ADA Officers and Board of Trustees.”
Gist said that in the 45 years since he was a dental student, there have been improvements in the diversity of the dental profession, membership and leadership of the ADA, and in initiatives to reduce disparities in the public’s oral health.
He said that although doors have been opened, more can be done to encourage careers in dentistry, citing enrollment in U.S. dental schools not keeping pace with the growth of underrepresented minorities in the U.S. population.
Gist explained that while African Americans and Hispanic Americans each totaled about 13 percent and 16 percent of the U.S. population, respectively, only about 6 percent of dental students were African American and 6 percent were Hispanic American. He also noted that when it comes to the oral health of the public, African Americans and Hispanic Americans suffer higher rates of dental diseases.
“The more our profession reaches out and makes everyone – from every walk of life and with every career ambition – feel welcome, the more talented our next generation of dentists will be,” Gist said.