​Office of Diversity Affairs

The College of Dental Medicine welcomes students and faculty from all backgrounds and ethnicities with the conviction that diversity creates a vibrant and exciting learning environment. It is part of our mission to promote a climate for multiculturalism and inclusion within our community for students, faculty, staff, and patients.

The Office of Diversity Affairs (ODA) serves as the internal support system for underrepresented minority students, faculty and staff and plays an integral role in the recruitment and retention of under-represented students. The ODA has implemented several programs to increase the training of under-represented minorities in the College of Dental Medicine predoctoral and postdoctoral programs. The Office also mentors several student groups, including chapters of the Student National Dental Association (SNDA) and the Hispanic Student Dental Association (HDA), and the CUMC Queer and Ally Partnership (LGBTQ)

"The Office of Diversity Affairs at CDM provides an amazing support system for students of color. Administrators consistently reach out to students to ensure academic success and emotional wellbeing. I have truly appreciated the guidance and support ODA has given me."

-Chelsea Townes '16


The Underrepresented in Dentistry (UID) Program

The UID Program was instituted at the College of Dental Medicine in 2003 as a collaboration between the ODA and Office of Admissions & Student Affairs. The program seeks to increase the diversity of the College of Dental Medicine student body as a means to enhance diversity within the dental profession. This mission is a reflection of the College of Dental Medicine admissions policy for diversity, which affirms the school’s commitment to “ensuring a critical mass of underrepresented in dentistry students, as well as a student body which is diverse in many respects.” UID students receive mentoring and support from several dedicated faculty members. The success of this initiative is reflected within the College of Dental Medicine predoctoral class. The freshman cohorts enrolled since the UID program’s inception have included increasingly larger numbers of students underrepresented in the dental profession.

Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP)

SHPEP is a free, six-week summer academic enrichment program for rising sophomore and junior students in college whom are interested in health professions careers. 

Students who participate in SHPEP gain the skills and experience needed for success in the health professions by:

  • Deepening their understanding of the basic sciences and quantitative topics.
  • Developing study skills and practicing methods of individual and group learning.
  • Participating in small-group clinical rotations and full-group clinician seminars.
  • Exploring careers in medicine, dentistry and other health professions.
  • Attending financial planning workshops and health policy seminars.

Formerly known as the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP), SHPEP expanded in 2016 to include a broader array of health professions. SHPEP is a collaboration between ADEA and the Association of American Medical Colleges, and is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. A 2015 Mathematica Policy Research report found that SMDEP dental scholars are roughly three times as likely to apply to dental school as their peers in a comparison group, and are nearly twice as likely to be accepted. (http://www.adea.org/SMDEP)


The Summer Public Health Scholars Program (SPHSP)

Designed for undergraduate students who wish to increase their knowledge of public health and biomedical science careers, SPHSP is a partnership between Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, Columbia University School of Nursing and the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. SPHSP grant funding was awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Office of the Director, Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (OMHHE).

The program is designed for undergraduates in their sophomore or junior year, and recent baccalaureate degree students, who are undecided about their career goals and who have a minimal GPA of 2.5. The program includes Public Health course work at Columbia University; hands-on field experience and immersion in a diverse, economically disadvantaged urban environment; seminars and lectures with public health leaders; and mentoring by faculty members. Students gain exposure to the breadth and importance of public health as a career option.

Columbia University College of Dental Medicine Admissions Policy on Diversity

The College of Dental Medicine seeks a diverse student body that reflects the many faces of the patients who will be treated by the graduates of the college and creates a diverse body of thought and interest within this community of scholars. Our definition of diversity includes race/ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and more, but is certainly not limited to those considerations. The candidate’s background in the sciences, future career intentions, unique abilities, personality, and general accomplishments also are carefully reviewed in seeking a diverse student body. For instance, a student who has demonstrated unique talents and skills in research, or who has a unique life mission in public health service, brings to our student body another important measure of diversity.

The college sets no quotas nor has set asides; regardless of race or ethnicity, all applicants are considered in the same competitive pool using the same policies and procedures and Admissions Committee members. Our Admissions Committee protocols insure that all applicants receive individualized consideration using a flexible policy in which race/ethnicity is one of a number of diversity-related considerations or factors taken into account.

Historically, the college has made a good faith consideration of workable race-neutral alternatives to race conscious policies. Such alternatives have proven inadequate in creating the desired nature of the student body. In dentistry in particular, with the very small national applicant pools for those groups who are under-represented in dentistry, race-neutral alternatives are particularly limited.

In summary, it is the intent of these “narrowly tailored” policies to assure a “critical mass” of under-represented in dentistry students, as well as a student body which is diverse in many respects. Such a student body is best prepared to meet the health care needs of our local community and society at large. As part of the institutional outcomes annual review, these policies and the results of their implementation are carefully reviewed and subject to future modification.

Contact Us:

Dr. Dennis A. Mitchell
Senior Associate Dean for Student Development

Sandra Garcia
Assistant Dean
Admissions and Student Affairs

Dr. Marlene Klyvert
Senior Advisor to the Office of Diversity Affairs

Beverly Cummings
Administrative Aide