May 2019 Volume LIV Number 3


HRSA Dental Faculty Loan Repayment

May 2018 Volume LIII Number 3

Meet the Recipients

Dr. Samah Omar, Loma Linda University
Through the HRSA Dental Faculty Loan Repayment program, Loma Linda University has been able to retain Dr. Samah Omar as an associate professor and full-time faculty member within the Department of Pediatric Dentistry. Omar earned her dental degree in 1999 from the Jordan Univer- sity of Science and Technology and worked in private practice and com- munity hospital prior to moving to the U.S. and completing the International Dentist Program. Omar received her certificate in pediatric dentistry in 2010 and Master of Science in Dentistry degree in 2011 from Loma Linda. She is certified and a diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry.

Loma Linda University’s School of Dentistry has had its pediatric dentistry residency program for more than two decades. The City of San Bernardino and its surroundings has a high rate of poverty with more than 50 percent of the child population either uninsured or using DentiCal. Many of the private pediatric dentistry offices do not accept DentiCal, making the Loma Linda Pediatric Dentistry Clinic one of the largest clinics that accepts DentiCal in The Inland Empire.

Since its inception, the class size has expanded from two to four residents. Recent graduates who are candidates for becoming faculty often have a difficult time deciding between entering private practice and academics due to their outstanding educational loans.

Dr. Jennifer Fernandez, University of Tennessee
The University of Tennessee College of Dentistry has a rich heritage of alumni who became leaders in Pediatric Dentistry as well as organized dentistry. This traces back to faculty who were role models of service, commitment to the patient first and clinical excellence. The challenge going forward is replac- ing those icons. In 2016, the average age of the faculty in the Department of Pediatric Dentistry was 64 years. This is not unique to the University of Tennes- see. Over time residents have been identified with teaching gifts and leadership skill; who would be interested in dental education if it were not for the mountain of student debt. The HRSA Dental Faculty Loan Repayment program has enabled the identification and recruitment of such a person in Dr. Jennifer Fernandez, who tells the following story:

"I graduated from the University of Tennessee’s pediatric dental residency in 2016. While under the mentorship of Martha Wells and Larry Dormois I discovered an affinity for teaching, but due to the heavy burden of student debt I was forced into private practice. I moved away after graduation to work and due to life circumstances, found myself back in Memphis. The Dental Faculty Loan Repayment Program allowed me to both enjoy a life of teaching and comfortably repay my student loans. Were it not for the faculty loan repayment half of my take home pay would go toward debt repayment, which would preclude the faculty position. The freedom it has given me to pursue this field of work is without measure, and for that I am truly grateful."

Look for profiles of additional recipients in future issues of PDT.

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