Class of 2026: Female dental student enrollment at an all-time high
August 16, 2022
The brand-new dental Class of 2026 hit the ground running at the end of July with orientations, lab check-ins and social events, including a welcome dinner and student organization fair hosted by the dean’s office.
This year’s class adds to a growing trend in dental education. Female students have positioned themselves as the leading demographic in the School of Dentistry’s doctoral program for the past three years. Students identifying as female comprise 63% of first-year.
Dental schools across the nation are seeing this steady rise. The American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute
(HPI) issued a report, based on information from dental schools accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation, confirming that female enrollment in 2021 reached an all-time high of 56%.
Director of Admissions Kelly C. Lemke, DDS, MS
, along with teammates Jennifer L. M. Sandlin, program coordinator – senior, and Kimberly Kirby, administrative assistant – senior, oversaw the review of 1,022 dental applications and the coordination of more than 350 applicant interviews for this year’s class. When prompted to answer why so many females might now be pursuing the profession of dentistry, Lemke found that could not be so easily answered.
“Providing care to underserved populations was a consistent theme in dental school interviews last year, regardless of the gender of the interviewee,” Lemke said. “Several of the female dental school candidates that I interviewed specifically mentioned flexibility as one appeal of a career in dentistry. That is to say, they liked the 8 to 5 schedule and the option to practice part-time while raising children. That having been said, I recall both male and female interviewees discussing their desire to run their own small business.”
Her last point makes reference to the HPI’s research which projects that once these female dentists enter the workforce, they will tend to prefer group practice opportunities over ownership.
“I think there are multiple aspects that make group practices appealing to many new dentists, not just females,” said Lacee Mims, a first-year dental student. “From sharing risk and responsibility, to providing an immediate source of experienced insight, group practices have a lot to offer new graduates.”
Like so many before her, Mims was first drawn to the profession by her personal dentist. “It'll be interesting to see the effect of increased female enrollment on the dental field in the next decade once current students enter and establish themselves within the profession,” she added.
As professional organizations prepare for the needs of a changing workforce, the School of Dentistry remains committed to admitting and training the best candidates.
“This year’s class has an overall grade point average of 3.77 and the academic average of their Dental Admissions Test is 21.8,” shared Lemke. “Those are terrific figures to report and a testament to the quality candidates our school attracts.”
Lemke, her team and the Admissions Committee are already evaluating student applications for next year’s class. With the November 1 deadline fast approaching and candidate interviews scheduled to begin on August 22, the future is very much top-of-mind for the school.