Black History Month: SNDA

Student National Dental Association creates ‘instant family’ for minority students
February 19th, 2021

The Student National Dental Association at Texas A&M College of Dentistry has about 60 members, including seven residents. While the organization was historically for minority dental students, students of all backgrounds are welcome.

What are SNDA’s origins? In 1972, while gathering at a conference in Detroit, dozens of Black dental students from across the U.S. drafted the Student National Dental Association’s constitution, making it the first national organization for minority dental students.

What’s the history of SNDA’s local chapter? The College of Dentistry’s SNDA student organization was started by Claude Williams Jr. when he was a dental student in 1979.

“The SNDA chapter was established to address the unique experience and needs of African American dental students,” he says. “I’m happy to see the growth of the organization.”

The group’s first sponsor was Dr. Claude Williams Sr., the school’s first African American faculty member and first African American orthodontist in the Southwest.

Who is the faculty adviser now? Dr. Reginald Taylor, associate professor and director of pre-doctoral orthodontics, has been the SNDA adviser since 2005 when Williams handed over the reins.

“I knew that his were big shoes to fill, but I had been involved with the SNDA since being a dental student myself,” Taylor says. “I had benefited from the mentorship I received, and I hoped to do the same for succeeding generations.”

What the student organization offers: SNDA gives students an “instant family,” Taylor says, which is especially important for those far from home but also for anyone looking for camaraderie.

“If the distance is not physical, it may be in truly understanding what being a dental student, especially a dental student of color, involves. Being a part of this group, each student can receive educational, emotional and moral support from their new ‘family,’” he says.

What student leaders have to say: “SNDA has created a community of people that I know I can reach out to and who have been there for me since D1,” says D3 Krysten Barnes, co-president. “It creates a sort of safe haven for minority students where they know that they will be heard and looked out for.”

What does SNDA do? In a typical year, SNDA hosts the dental school’s annual talent show, collects canned goods for the community and networks with local dentists and alumni. Impressions Day is their largest event, providing predental students a glimpse of a day-in-the-life at dental school. That event will be held virtually this spring.

Parting thoughts: “I have been made continuously proud by how the SNDA works to improve and uplift the community, both inside and outside the walls of the College of Dentistry,” Taylor says.

For the first three installments of this series, click these links:

Black History Month: Dr. Stewart

Black History Month: Dr. Smith

Black History Month: Dr. Clemetson

— Kathleen Green Pothier