Creating Leaders thru the Scholar’s Program in Dental Leadership
The Scholar’s Program in Dental Leadership (SPDL) was one of the main reasons that I chose to attend the University of Michigan for Dental School, but…I wasn’t entirely sure what it was. However, I did know that SPDL held the values of leadership, communication, creativity, service, and continuing education as its cornerstones. I knew it was something that I could not pass up. Now, after just a few amazing months – including the Challenge Course Kickoff event, charismatic presentation by current V.P. of academic affairs at Detroit Mercy and former ADEA President Pamela Zarkowski, and many conversations with upperclassmen – I am certain that SPDL is one of the best opportunities that Michigan has to offer.
As incoming dental students we often have some deeper reason for pursing dentistry other than a joy of cleaning people’s teeth. That interest may lie in research with a desire to push forward our profession’s standing in scholarship and academics. It may be an interest in developing optimal communication skills and methods to touch the lives of others in a positive way. Whatever the student’s unique interest is, SPDL provides the opportunity to pursue that interest with a field of resources and faculty to back you up. SPDL provides a means to develop your own unique brand as a future dental professional and representative of the University of Michigan. Each student will eventually undertake and complete a Capstone Project, the highlight of SPDL, which is the student’s best effort at bringing their creative idea into reality. Members of SPDL will graduate in 4 years with not only the tools of a dentist, but also the tools to make change.
With Michigan’s recent innovation of the Pathways Program, SPDL provides a unique outlet and experience particularly for students on either the Health Care Delivery Pathway or the Research Pathway. It provides balance to the rest of the curriculum as an extracurricular with scheduled leadership training events and guest presentations each month delivered by some of those that have risen to the top of our profession in terms of leadership contributions. As a D1 student, it has also been wonderful to have access to upperclassmen for advice and mentorship.
The Scholar’s Program in Dental Leadership is truly a unique opportunity, yet it just as much depends on the initiative of the student. It’s an experience that we ourselves must cultivate. During the application process for SPDL, faculty and program directors do their best to select those who they believe will make most of their available resources. It is up to us to appreciate that opportunity and make the most of those resources. SPDL is not a time to sit on the sidelines, it’s a time to lace-up and get in the game!
DeAngelo Webster is a D1 student born and raised in the state of Michigan. He has a passion for seeking challenges and bettering the lives of others through promoting health, happiness, positivity, and education. His goals in dentistry are to inspire confidence through his work as well as to promote diversity and equality.