In 2010, Memphis, Tennessee based dentist, Dr. Christina T. Rosenthal, turned a failed private dental practice into an inspiring mentoring initiative. Determined to be a Doctor Someday, or DDS for short, is an interactive program and curriculum that seeks to cultivate and support new generations of Black students to pursue careers in the healthcare industry. The long-term vision of the initiative is to create a healthcare workforce that more accurately mirrors the diverse communities in which they will serve.
After opening a second but ultimately unsuccessful dental practice in rural Arkansas just one year out of dental school, Dr. Rosenthal redirected her energy by becoming involved with the American Dental Association’s Institute for Diversity in Leadership. One of the requirements for her to complete the institute involved creating an original project that would be impactful to the dental and/or broader healthcare industries. With this prompt, Dr. Rosenthal created DDS to inspire hope and encouragement to students of color to pursue medical degrees and return to their home communities to provide aid.
Research shows that doctors of color who practice in communities of color experience higher rates of care consistently being sought due to higher levels of comfort and demonstrated cultural competence for an overall more positive doctor-patient experience. The DDS program not only exposes participants to healthcare professionals from diverse backgrounds, they also offer scholarship opportunities and standardized test preparation curriculums.
DDS, located at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, has also cultivated a network of support from local healthcare providers to host program participants for site visits at local healthcare facilities. Dr. Rosenthal shared with Black Enterprise Magazine, “That’s why I became an Atlantic Fellow for Health Equity at George Washington University’s Health Workforce Institute. I’m part of a larger, global group and in this way, I can connect with others around the world, learn how they are making differences, share my experiences and apply some best practices to my work.”
This past June, DDS launched their newest initiative targeting children ages 2 to 5 years old. DDS Explorers use STEAM-based age appropriate activities to introduce children of color to jobs in healthcare. In short, “you can’t be what you can’t see,” a sentiment that Dr. Rosenthal references often to acknowledge the necessity of DDS activities.
Thank you Dr. Rosenthal for your work and commitment to support and cultivate the next generation of health care professionals.