Neither alumna Leneshia Haynes, DDS’19, nor fourth-year dental student Jeremy Williams could pause for an interview for this article the first time they were asked. Haynes was tied up in clinic, while Williams was busy with a patient. Their diligence was good news, both for them and for a Creighton University program that seeks to provide a secondary on-ramp to a career in dentistry.
Creighton’s Pre-Dental Post-Baccalaureate program offers a second opportunity to those who have earned an undergraduate degree but have been denied entry to dental school. The yearlong program is a comprehensive dive into the knowledge required to successfully pass the Dental Admission Test that is the standard requirement of all accredited dental schools in the United States.
Considering that admission to the highly competitive arena of dental school depends on more than just book knowledge, participants are also expected “to be a positive influence on his or her peers, exhibit professionalism and interpersonal skills and participate in learning outside the classroom, through volunteerism and clinical or mentoring opportunities.”
The payoff for this year of diligence, should all standards be met, is a guaranteed place in the fall class at the School of Dentistry.
Administered by Creighton’s Health Sciences-Multicultural and Community Affairs Department, which turns 20 years old in 2020, the post-baccalaureate program helps students from underserved and underrepresented minority populations become dentists. The program seeks to develop health care professionals who possess the cultural competency to serve medically underserved communities.
Haynes and Williams came to HS-MACA’s post-baccalaureate program on the strength of recommendations from previous participants.
Haynes, a Chicago native who graduated from Creighton in May 2019, is now a general practice resident at the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. She was granted Creighton’s 2018 Martin Luther King Jr. Student Leadership Award after serving as president of the Creighton chapter of the Student National Dental Association and organizing events such as a fitness boot camp and community fundraisers.
“The post-bac program helped me most with the study skills needed to pass the Dental Admission Test as well as having camaraderie with other post-bac students,” Haynes says. “We studied together and helped each other out through the process.
“As a minority in a majority institution, it can be difficult to find students who are willing to help, to learn and study together, so the post-bac program solidified that early on and built a camaraderie that lasted all the way through dental school.”
Williams, after earning a bachelor’s degree in biology and developing an interest in dentistry following work as a dental assistant, proceeded to earn a master’s degree in biomedical science before being accepted into Creighton’s post-baccalaureate program.
“The post-bac program gave me that load,” he says. “In undergrad and master’s programs, you get to pick your classes and so you like to make it easier for yourself, leave yourself time to do other things, but the post-bac program put a load on me similar to the one I would face in dental school or medical school.
“The load is heavy to push you, so that when you get there, you’ll be ready. It’s tiresome, but it works you out and gets you ready. I wasn’t ready. I see that now. I needed this program.”
As he nears graduation in May, Williams reflects on a path that took him from his role as a dental assistant in Louisiana to the point where he will soon rejoin the dentist he once assisted.
“When I left for Creighton, I told him, ‘Next time I come back through these doors, I’ll be a doctor.’”