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Financial help on the way for Florida dental students

Gainesville, Fla.—Disadvantaged dental students at the University of Florida are getting a boost thanks to a federal grant.

The Health Resources and Services Administration awarded the UF College of Dentistry a four-year, $2.5 million grant to help provide financial assistance through HRSA's Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students program.

UF will receive $645,000 for the current academic year with recommended future support of $645,000 per year for the next three years—totaling more than $2.5 million over four years.

"We were awarded exactly the amount that we requested," said Dr. Pamela Sandow, the dental school's assistant dean for admissions and financial aid. "The grant application indicated that the award would be around $495,000 annually, but we received $645,000, so it's a huge accomplishment for our college to receive this money for our students."

The grant funds enable UF to provide individual $15,000 scholarships to 43 students. Awards will be based on the guidelines HRSA has established, and students will be evaluated on a yearly basis.

HRSA's award helps the College of Dentistry recruit and retain qualified students from disadvantaged backgrounds, which not only will improve access to health professions education but also will help foster a diversified workforce, Dr. Sandow said. She also hopes the grant reduces student debt so that scholarship recipients find it easier to practice in underserved areas.

"Sometimes (students) must make economic decisions for loan repayment rather than practicing in an underserved area where they might receive less income," Dr. Sandow said. "If they have less debt, hopefully they will tend to gravitate toward areas where there is an underserved population, where there are fewer dentists to take care of people who need dental work."

Eligible students will receive their awards in the spring.

For information on eligibility, visit www.hrsa.gov/loanscholarships/scholarships/disadvantaged.html.