National scholarship helps dentistry students pursue their interest in service

Second-year Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry student Bryant Wooten discovered his passion for helping underserved populations while volunteering at free dental clinics across North Carolina as an undergrad. “When I was assisting at the dental clinics, I found it a lot more rewarding and fun than just shadowing in a private practice setting,” he said.

Wooten and first-year dentistry student Qaiser Ahmed were awarded highly competitive scholarships from the National Health Service Corps to attend VCU School of Dentistry in return for a commitment to work at a NHSC-approved site in an underserved community after graduation.

“I’ve always enjoyed serving underserved areas and taking time out to give back,” Ahmed said.

Since 1972, the NHSC has connected 45,000 primary health care practitioners to communities with limited access to primary care. The scholarship pays tuition, fees, other educational costs, and provides a stipend while the students attend school. Service at one of the NHSC sites in urban, rural and frontier communities across the U.S. begins after graduation.

During the scholarship submission process, the NHSC received 1,844 applications from more than 400 schools across the country. Less than 15 percent of applicants received the scholarship.

“The people you work with in these areas are the patients who truly need care,” Ahmed said. The 26-year-old plans to go into general dentistry after his four years of service. “For me it’s being able to make a greater impact than if I was to just go into private practice right away,” he said.

Wooten is considering going back to school for a master’s degree in public health after his NHSC service. “I was already interested in working in the public health sector to begin with,” he said. “I just have a passion for that type of work.”


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VCU School of Dentistry student Bryant Wooten
VCU School of Dentistry student Bryant Wooten
First-year dentistry student Qaiser Ahmed
First-year dentistry student Qaiser Ahmed