ADEA to Launch Major Dental Education-wide Climate Assessment on Diversity and Inclusion

WASHINGTON--()--The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) is launching a momentous dental education-wide climate assessment survey that will collect baseline data on diversity, equity and inclusion at U.S. and Canadian dental schools and allied dental programs. This inaugural climate assessment is a crucial step in assisting all institutions with measuring perceptions regarding the campus climate as one supportive of inclusion, equality and equitable outcomes for all stakeholders.

“This project underscores ADEA’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and its responsibility and pledge to help all dental schools and dental education programs develop a better understanding of today’s landscape,” said ADEA President and CEO Karen P. West, D.M.D., M.P.H. “With the data we will collect, dental schools and programs will have valuable insights on the steps they can take to further promote inclusion, diversity and a strong sense of belonging for everyone.”

The climate study also will include questions on well-being and engagement among specific demographic groups. Collecting baseline data will allow dental schools and allied dental programs to evaluate their strengths and identify areas for improvement related to inclusion and diversity efforts and creating and sustaining a humanistic environment. Additionally, the climate assessment data will serve as an important tool in guiding new and enhanced strategic initiatives related to diversity, equity and inclusion in dental education.

Some dental schools and allied dental programs have already participated in climate studies at the campus level. However, one of the ADEA climate assessment’s major benefits will be the availability of comparative aggregated data specific to dental schools and allied dental programs, which has been unavailable for schools and programs participating solely in university/campus assessments. Individualized confidential customized reports and data tables will be available to assist in diversity and strategic planning at the school and program level.

ADEA is partnering with Nonprofit HR, a consulting group with offices in Washington, DC, and San Francisco, to conduct the survey, which will include all 78 dental schools and 800+ allied dental programs in the United States and Canada. ADEA and Nonprofit HR will also work with the ADEA Collaborative on Dental Education Climate Assessment (ADEA CDECA) and other key stakeholders to develop the survey instrument during the summer and fall 2021. Tentative plans for survey implementation are early spring 2022 and final climate assessment results will be available in fall 2022.

“For many decades, we have heard first- and secondhand accounts of microaggressions, macroaggressions, and lack of cultural sensitivities within work environments in general, and dental education specifically,” said Keith A. Mays, Ph.D., D.D.S., M.S., Chair of the ADEA Board of Directors and Dean of the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry. “As a faculty member and administrator, I experience too many off-the-record conversations about racial discrimination, sexual harassment or discrimination based on sexual orientation. This makes me believe we may not fully understand how many individuals within our institutions are impacted. Therefore, the ADEA climate assessment survey is an important step to further support healing and well-being in dental institutions.

Lisa Brown Alexander, Founder and CEO, Nonprofit HR, said she was looking forward to this project. “Nonprofit HR deeply values and prioritizes diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and are honored to partner with ADEA for such a monumental, timely and critical initiative,” she said. “We are attuned to the strength and value that a stronger concentration on DEI can bring to every organization in the dental education community. And we are in tune with the richness of experience and perspective that a diverse and equitable workforce brings to the academic community across North America.”

The climate assessment survey is the culmination of more than a year of collaborative work and research conducted by ADEA staff, the ADEA Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee (ADEA DIAC) and ADEA CDECA, which consists of six independent researchers from four ADEA member dental schools (University of Michigan School of Dentistry; University of California, San Francisco, School of Dentistry; Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry; and University of Indiana School of Dentistry), a representative of the Academy for Advancing Leadership and representatives from the ADEA DIAC and ADEA staff.

Prior to deciding to initiate the study, ADEA, through the ADEA CDECA, spent several months examining postsecondary and health professions climate assessment literature. They also gathered and analyzed information from faculty, staff, students and administrators by conducting six surveys and two sets of focus groups. The data collected focused on three areas: 1) past climate survey activities at dental schools and allied dental programs, 2) dental school and allied dental program perceptions and considerations concerning a future ADEA-led dental education-wide climate study and 3) the effects of the COVID-19 crisis and the Black Lives Matter movement on the cultural climate for all members of our communities and climate-related activities. Based on all the information gathered, ADEA CDECA recommended ADEA contract with an external climate survey consultant group to conduct a dental education-wide survey for all U.S. and Canadian dental schools and allied dental programs.

In December 2020, ADEA staff began an RFP process during which they invited vendors to submit a proposal to develop, administer and analyze data for a dental education-wide climate survey. ADEA selected Nonprofit HR as its vendor.

Many of those involved with the development of the survey hope it will be a step forward for the dental education community in embracing diversity and inclusion.

“We should be moving into action. We should have already been able to jump into action after the murder of George Floyd more than a year ago,” said Dennis A. Mitchell, D.D.S., M.P.H., Co-Chair of ADEA DIAC, CDECA representative and Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement and Professor at Columbia University College of Dental Medicine. “But we weren’t able to jump into action and we’re still now trying to assess. We’ve already lost a year of action, which is why it is important that we include next steps and measurable outcomes in any survey that we put forward.”

Ana N. López, D.M.D., M.P.H., FACD, FICD, Co-Chair of ADEA DIAC, CDECA representative and Professor and former Dean at the University of Puerto Rico School of Dental Medicine, called on the dental education community to welcome this initiative.

“Now is our time to take action, to participate, to take it seriously, and to answer those questions with our hearts, with our minds and our own experiences,” she said. “We have to be committed to make this change happen and that only happens when we all engage and do what we have to do and answer those surveys.”

About ADEA: The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) is The Voice of Dental Education. Our mission is to lead and support the health professions community in preparing future-ready oral health professionals. Our members include all 78 U.S. and Canadian dental schools, more than 800 allied and advanced dental education programs, more than 50 corporations and approximately 18,000 individuals. Our activities encompass a wide range of research, advocacy, faculty development, meetings and communications, including the esteemed Journal of Dental Education®, as well as the dental school application services ADEA AADSAS®, ADEA PASS®, ADEA DHCAS® and ADEA CAAPID®. For more information, visit


Kellie Bove

Release Summary

ADEA to launch climate assessment survey to collect baseline data on diversity, equity and inclusion at dental schools and allied dental programs.


Kellie Bove