October 18, 2022 | Downers Grove, IL
Midwestern University in cooperation with the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation is pleased to announce the recipients of a scholarship intended to foster student body diversity and extend opportunities for healthcare students from underrepresented minority groups. Two dental medicine students — Azha Scott-Leblanc of Houma, Louisiana, and Emma Tello of Cudahy, California — were each awarded a $50,000 Delta Dental of Illinois Diversity Admissions Scholarship to attend Midwestern University’s College of Dental Medicine-Illinois (CDMI).
“We developed this scholarship as part of our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and to ensure that all students who share our mission to improve health in the community are able to achieve their educational goals,” said Lora Vitek, executive director of the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation. “Through these scholarships, we also hope to improve access to dental care in areas of the state that need it most by supporting young dental professionals while they are still in school.”
Scholarship recipient Azha Scott-Leblanc (CDMI 2026) is the first member of her family to pursue a graduate degree in healthcare. She is a graduate of Louisiana State University and was drawn to the field of dental medicine after witnessing the positive impact a dentist can have on a patient after just one appointment. “Being able to transform a smile or alleviate someone's pain in just one day makes for a very fulfilling career. And, seeing firsthand how the inaccessibility of dental care can impact a person’s quality of life only makes me more eager to go into the field to make a positive change,” Azha said.
Azha is looking forward to starting her professional dental medicine education with the help of the Delta Dental scholarship. “The College of Dental Medicine-Illinois stood out to me because of the strong clinical training I will receive and the state-of-the-art facilities and equipment I will utilize. As a dental student, I am looking forward to working in a clinic and seeing patients. I have seen what neglecting oral health does to people, and I cannot wait to educate patients on the proper techniques,” Azha said. “I have been working towards dental school for six years. This very generous scholarship will lift some of the financial burdens of graduate school and allow me to further my education with less stress.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Riverside, Emma Tello (CDMI 2026), decided she wanted to pursue a career in dental medicine and earned a degree in dental hygiene from Loma Linda University in San Bernardino County, California, while also working part-time. “Being raised by a single mom who came to the United States from Mexico laid a foundation for me wanting to further my education. I would help my mom clean houses and I was the translator for her and her English-only speaking clients,” she said. “Since we had no set schedule, I learned about time management and the responsibility we had in finishing a job by a certain time. My mom was so busy providing for us, that our oral healthcare was not a priority. I now know that I want to further my passion for helping others by pursuing a career in dental medicine because oral health is vital and can make a great impact on one’s life.”
As she begins her studies at the College of Dental Medicine-Illinois, Emma is looking forward to being part of an educational community that values service to others. “Growing up and working with my mom was not something I saw as work, but rather I saw it as helping her. Helping others became second nature to me. This is something I try to implement in my daily life as much as possible and dental medicine provides me with the opportunity to create a positive change in someone’s smile and oral health,” Emma said.
The Delta Dental of Illinois Diversity Admissions Scholarship is available to incoming first-year students at CDMI who belong to minority groups as defined by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). These competitive scholarships are awarded based on past academic performance; commitment to diversity, leadership, and community service; and demonstrated financial need. Consideration is also given to applicants who are first-generation college students.
Midwestern University’s College of Dental Medicine-Illinois offers a doctorate in dental medicine (D.M.D) degree as part of a four-year program that includes academic coursework, preclinical simulation studies, practical clinical dentistry, and community clinical rotations. The Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation is a not-for-profit dental service corporation with a mission to improve the overall health and well-being of people in Illinois through education and access to quality healthcare. Learn more about the College of Dental Medicine-Illinois at midwestern.edu, and the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation at deltadentalil.com/ddilfoundation.