Dental school milestone

Enrollment skews toward females for 4 consecutive years
September 23rd, 2019

The D4 class (pictured D1 year) started a four-year streak of female-majority classes, a first for the school.

For the first time in Texas A&M College of Dentistry’s history, females outnumber males in all four dental classes. That’s consistent with a nationwide trend as more women apply to and enroll in dental schools.

“Just a few decades ago, opportunities were limited for women to enter professional careers,” says Dr. Barbara Miller ’83, assistant dean of recruitment and admissions.

In her dental class of 140, Miller was one of only 18 women to enroll in 1979. The recent uptick in female applicants and enrollees may be in part because careers in the sciences are now more open to including women, she says.

This year’s D1 class has more women enrolled than ever before.

This year’s entering D1 class consists of 62 women and 43 men, she says. The current D2 class entered with 57 women and 49 men; the D3s, 57 women, 45 men; and the D4s, 55 women, 50 men. The female-dominant change was first noticed here in 2005 when more women than men enrolled for the first time, repeating again in 2006 and 2009. But it wasn’t until 2016 that the trend continued at a steady pace.

All three Texas dental schools are experiencing this reality.

Since 2015, three of the five dental classes at the UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry have been majority female, says Dr. Kay H. Malone III, director of admissions at the school. He points to several factors that make dentistry an appealing choice for women, including more flexibility in career and lifestyle options than in other medical fields.

“Women have discovered that dentistry offers a viable health care option where they can develop superior patient interpersonal relationships, deliver quality care that patients will greatly appreciate, and create a sense of personal satisfaction,” he says.

Along the same lines, at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Dentistry, that change surfaced about the same time as in Dallas.

“This happens to be the trend in most health professions, and not just Texas but around the nation as well. Some think that we are starting to see the benefits of pipeline programs that have been in place for a while to attract women into dentistry,” says Dr. Robert D. Spears, associate dean for student and academic affairs at the dental school in Houston.

In Miller’s frequent discussions with recruiting peers, she says the increase of women applicants nationwide often comes up in discussion. In 2015, for the first time, the American Dental Education Association’s national application numbers for women (5,841) surpassed men (5,831), a difference of 10. In 2018, women’s applications surpassed men’s by 630.

“This trend is encouraging, as it shows that the gender rules of the past are no longer true,” says Karen P. West, president and CEO of ADEA. “More women going into dentistry indicates that more girls are becoming interested in science. Diversifying the dental professions is a key priority for ADEA, and we work to ensure that opportunities are available to all.”

— Kathleen Green Pothier