When Sarita Arteaga, UConn School of Dental Medicine associate dean for students, earned her DMD at the School in 1990, she was the only person of color out of the 38 members in her class.
Today, the School of Dental Medicine actively works to expand the diversity of both the school and the profession, including through developing a national mentoring network to support a diverse dental, oral, and craniofacial workforce.
While Arteaga says it was difficult being “the only one” as a student and not seeing many faculty members of color, that started to change when she joined the faculty in 1995. “It helps students see someone like themselves in the University setting and in academics,” she says. “The shift in increasing numbers allows other students to see people of color doing well, comfortable, and happy.”
Arteaga supports a number of student special interest groups that not only seek to foster diversity and inclusion within the school but also help communities of color receive better access to care. She personally volunteers in the community with the Meriden HeadStart Program, the Special Olympics, UConn Health’s Migrant Farmworkers Clinic, and the South Park Inn homeless shelter in Hartford.
For the latest installment of the Brave Space series, Courtney Chandler interviewed Arteaga on the diversity and inclusion efforts of the School and what can be done to positively impact the future of dentistry as a whole.