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Dean strives to increase diversity
among S.C. dentists, faculty
John J. Sanders’ dedication to promoting success and diversity among
MUSC College of Dental Medicine (CDM) students and graduates has earned
him the 2008 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Recognition Award.
Since his appointment in 2005 as dean of the Palmetto State’s only
dental school, Sanders, DDS, has instituted new opportunities and
support for all dental graduates through intercollegiate projects, oral
health research and expansion of outreach and practice programs across
the state. The MLK award recognizes Sanders for his leadership in
promoting diversity education in dentistry.
“I’m very pleased to receive this award,” said Sanders, a periodontist
and former Navy dentist. “Although the college has made a lot of
progress in the area of diversity, we still have a long journey ahead
of us. Diversity in dental education is part of a national problem. At
MUSC, we’re trying to recruit a talented, diverse student body that
reflects more of our growing South Carolina population.”
Sanders was presented the award by the Black History Intercollegiate
Consortium on Jan. 22 during ceremonies at the Harper Wellness Center.
The consortium represents the area’s four higher education
institutions: The Citadel, MUSC, Charleston Southern University and
Trident Technical College. It involves educators and students
interested in promoting black history and ethnic diversity. MUSC was
this year’s host of the event.
Sanders is considered a champion for the college's diversity program
and activities devoted to increasing diversity in dental education in
South Carolina. The college’s diversity program aims to increase the
number of underrepresented minority applicants interested in dentistry
and retention at the college. Sanders works with Gwendolyn Brown, DMD,
director of the college’s diversity program, dental faculty and staff
in outreach and dental education programs and career activities.
“Dean Sanders has continually been supportive of the college’s
diversity program and activities,” said Brown, also a 1987 dental
school alumnus and Charleston dentist. “He is wholeheartedly committed
to the students and their success. His leadership has helped the
college move in the right direction.”
Some of the college’s successful projects include Dental Day, and
projects like the Prep Program and Future Health Professionals Academy,
co-sponsored by the South Carolina Area Health Education Consortium
(AHEC). The academy helps undergraduate students sample curriculums in
both dentistry and nursing and build skills that prepare them for the
For the last three years, Sanders has embraced an open-door policy for
students, meeting regularly with them and dental faculty about programs
and ideas, and gaining feedback.
“Dean Sanders is deserving of this award because of his efforts in
recruiting minorities to the field of dentistry,” said Sparkle Pompey,
Student National Dental Association chapter president and participant
in this year’s program at MUSC. “He has held meetings to communicate
and help gain our [student’s] insight as to what can be done to
increase the minority involvement at MUSC, especially in the dental
program at MUSC.”
With students participating in more local and statewide dental clinical
practice activities, Sanders also sees students, especially minorities,
as community role models and ambassadors to the college, dentistry and
the health professions within the communities they practice. He also
sees potential for dental graduates as future leaders in statewide and
national organized dentistry and other alumni involvement.
“Dean Sanders has always been supportive of minority-driven events and
programs,” said Gabrielle Ferguson Cannick, a seventh-year Dental
Medicine Scientist Training student.
“I feel that honoring select faculty like Dr. Sanders, who embody
the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, is important, because it shows
that people are still working toward the dream of equality and
diversity. Additionally, the recognition of a leader in the Lowcountry
community helps students see leaders who are also working on their
Other winners of the MUSC-MLK Recognition Award include Thad Bell,
M.D., Office of Diversity; Sherron Jackson, M.D., Pediatrics; Myra
Haney, College of Medicine; and Steve Brown, College of Pharmacy.
Friday, Feb. 8, 2008
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