DIDM Spotlight: sDr. Akosua Afriyie – “Diversity in Dentistry”

Diversity in Dentistry Mentorship’s mentor, sDr. Akosua Afriyie, wrote a heartfelt article stressing diversity’s vital role in dentistry in her school newsletter, the Lingual Groove, Fall 2023. She highlighted the recent Youth Summit at ATSU-ASDOH by Diversity in Dentistry Mentorships, where she served as a mentor.

“The embrace of diversity has become increasingly significant in the dynamic and ever-evolving field of dentistry. Like any other profession, the dental profession benefits immensely from the inclusion of individuals from various backgrounds, experiences, and cultures. Beyond promoting equality, diversity in dentistry enriches the field, fosters innovation, and ultimately improves patient care. I believe that increasing diversity in dentistry is more than a moral imperative. As the patient population becomes more diverse, having a dental workforce that reflects this diversity is necessary for delivering comprehensive and patient-centered care. When patients see themselves represented in the dental team, they are more likely to feel understood, respected, and confident in the care they receive.

Consider the last instance in which you provided assistance to someone and were able to relate to or comprehend their needs. Then, contrast that experience with one in which you were required to assist someone but were unable to comprehend their perspective or even relate to them. It is more difficult to help someone when you do not understand, relate to, or have ever been exposed to their situation. As dental providers, patient-centered care becomes harder when you don’t understand your patients’ backgrounds, needs, disparities, and nuances. Personally, as an underrepresented student, I strive to incorporate my identity into my dental career. It is important to me to always keep that at the forefront because I know that I bring a unique perspective and culture to this field that will benefit and serve a broad population.

This integration of identity is not about standing out but rather about adding depth and breadth to the profession. Another important reason for having a diverse makeup of individuals is that it builds cultural proficiency amongst the group. Since everyone has inherent biases, coming together as a diverse group stimulates discussion and understanding of our differences and commonalities, which improves both patient care and the workplace environment. It is evident that diverse teams are more competent and better equipped to address the unique oral health challenges that different communities may face. Understanding cultural nuances, dietary habits, and healthcare beliefs can lead to more tailored and effective preventive and curative care, which reduces health disparities.

Recently, ASDOH held the Diversity in Dentistry (DID) Summit. This program was a collaboration between DID creator Dr. Laila Hishaw and her passion for creating a nurturing environment for students from various backgrounds and cultures who might be interested in dentistry but lack the resources, inspiration, or confidence to pursue it. I served as a mentor for this program and many others, utilizing my perspective, experience, and passion for others in the position that I was once in. This is one of many contributions that I will continue to make-actively participating in events and programs that support and foster increasing diversity.

In essence, I believe that diversity in dentistry is an indispensable asset that contributes to the vitality and effectiveness of the dental profession. Furthermore, by incorporating one’s identity into their practice and actively working to promote diversity, we can make meaningful contributions that go beyond the treatment room. Embracing diversity in dentistry is not only a reflection of societal values but also a strategic imperative for delivering high-quality, patient-centered care in the constantly evolving field of dentistry, which will positively influence our healthcare and ultimately patients’ lives.”

Read her compelling insights in Lingual Groove HERE.

Akosua Afriyie is currently a D1 dental student at the Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health at A.T. Still University in Arizona. Growing up in an underserved community and not having access to a dentist sparked her curiosity to understand health disparities in addition to her strong manual dexterity. This process can be difficult when you don’t know where to start or have the resources. She is excited to be here to help other underserved students to succeed in becoming a dentist.