Until he visited Georgia Health Sciences University last summer, Franklyn Aguebor never dreamed he would enjoy drilling teeth. But Tuesday afternoon, he was happily suctioning out a patient’s mouth while senior dental student Jancy Parkerson whirred away in a lab at the GHSU College of Dental Medicine.
Aguebor went through the Student Educational Enrichment Program, or SEEP, a summer program to introduce underrepresented minorities to various aspects of health care. It was that introduction to dentistry that really sparked his interest in it.
“It was actually amazing to turn from aspiring medical student to aspiring dental student,” Aguebor said. “SEEP really shaped my path in life and my career aspirations.”
The program also includes help with the writing and interviewing part of the applications, he said.
“It just makes you a more competitive applicant in general,” he said.
Getting more underrepresented minorities in health care is important because they tend to treat that population as well, said Dr. Kimberly Vess Halbur, associate dean for diversity affairs.
“We do find that students, when they come from rural areas or it might be minority students, they do tend to serve that population,” she said. Less than 8 percent of students enrolled in medical school are black, Hispanic or American Indian, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration. Less than 20 percent of practicing dentists take Medicaid patients and only a small percentage devote a substantial proportion of their practice to it, according to HRSA. The number of dental Health Professional Shortage Areas more than tripled from 1993 to 2010, HRSA said, and that is expected to grow with a looming dental shortage.
All of this Aguebor had in mind as he chose his profession and he hopes to practice in areas of need in Augusta or Atlanta.
“That was one of the particular things I was really interested in, underserved areas,” he said. Originally from Nigeria, the conditions there also helped shape his career choice.
“That actually inspired me to go into health care, seeing the hardships and disparities in my country,” said Aguebor, who would like to make a mission trip there.
Already accepted to start dental school in the fall, he has been taking in the Summer Prematriculation Program, where students are given some of the same coursework they will face in the fall, as well as the chance to work in some of the clinical settings. It is designed to help make the transition easier, Halbur said.
“It’s just such a big jump from undergraduate to professional school, the rigor and the time commitment and the intensity,” she said. The program “helps them get used to it before their grades are on the line.”
It has really opened Aguebor’s eyes to what lies ahead in the next four years.
“Yes, it is hard but you learn how to manage your time, how to prioritize what is more important,” he said. “You start utilizing your weekends to study. It is not like undergrad.”
Now, he feels more prepared.
“A lot of people do not know what to expect when the time comes,” Aguebor said. “Coming into this program, I did not know what to expect at all. You hit the ground running from day one.”