MUSC Medical Links Charleston Links Archives Medical Educator Speakers Bureau Seminars and Events Research Studies Research Grants Catalyst PDF File Community Happenings Campus News

Return to Main Menu

Dean strives to increase diversity among S.C. dentists, faculty

by Cindy Abole
Public Relations
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 application process.
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 behalf today.”
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
Catalyst Online is published weekly, updated as needed and improved from time to time by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.