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Dr. Robert Tanner Freeman Dental School Scholarship Announced by The Dental Trade Alliance Foundation and the United Negro College Fund (UNCF)

News & Resources Category: Press, Scholarships

The DTA Foundation is excited to announce a new scholarship initiative, in partnership with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). The Dr. Robert Tanner Freeman Scholarship will provide scholarships to underrepresented minorities looking to start their dental education. This dental scholarship will be the first of its kind established through UNCF and is focused on increasing diversity and improving access to the oral healthcare profession.

UNCF has helped more than 500,000 students earn their college degrees since its founding and the DTA Foundation is proud to partner with them in developing the first ever dental student scholarship. This partnership aims to increase diversity in the dental field and provide improved access to higher education.

This new DTA Foundation scholarship initiative is made possible by our Founding Anchor Sponsor, Patterson Dental, and Founding Partners, Benco Family Foundation and 3M. Their leadership and generosity will greatly benefit oral health and the dental industry for years to come.

The Health Policy Institute recently noted in their Racial and Ethnic Mix of the Dentist Workforce in the U.S, “The racial mix of the dentist workforce does not reflect the U.S. Population.” According to a more recent Journal of American Dental Association study, Elevating dentistry through diversity, “Today, dental schools have student populations that are more diverse but still do not reflect the current US population. And it does not seem to be moving in that direction.”

This new scholarship initiative aims to change that.

“Diversity in many professions across the United States is severely lacking and often doesn’t represent our population’s needs,” said Dr. Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO, UNCF. “This is why this new scholarship program is vital—literally—to the health of our nation. We appreciate the gift from the DTA Foundation and look forward to expanding this partnership.”

“We are committed to strengthening the dentists who keep patients healthy in communities all over the country,” said Tim Rogan, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Patterson Dental North America. “Supporting their passion aligns with our values, and through our contribution to the Dr. Robert Tanner Freeman Scholarship, we’re excited to help increase diversity throughout our industry, and to continue advancing dentistry as a whole.”

“When dental professionals come from a variety of backgrounds and ethnicities, the entire oral care industry and patients around the world benefit,” said Eric Wenzel, United States and Canada Area Vice President, 3M Oral Care Solutions Division. “3M is proud to be a Founding Partner of the Dr. Robert Tanner Freeman Scholarship, and to play a part in supporting this inspiring work that increases access and opportunities for underrepresented minorities across the dental profession.”

“The Benco Family Foundation (BFF) recognizes the problems: lack of underrepresented minorities – primarily Black/African American, Native/Indigenous, and LatinX – and the tuition barrier. And, the BFF wants to be part of the solution by helping create the Dr. Robert Tanner Freeman scholarship,” said Rick Cohen, Benco Dental Managing Director and former DTA Foundation Chair.

Still in the early stages of development, the Dr. Robert Tanner Freeman Scholarship will be established to have a lasting impact on historically underrepresented minorities in the dental field. Additional support is needed to double or even triple the impact, which will greatly determine the type and number of scholarships that can be awarded.

If you are interested in supporting this new scholarship, contact Sarah Miller, Executive Director, at or (703) 379-7755.


About Dr. Robert Tanner Freeman

Robert Tanner Freeman was the first African American to receive a degree in dentistry from an academic institution. Freeman was born around 1846 in Washington, D.C. He trained under Dr. Henry Bliss Noble, who encouraged him to formally train for a dental career. Freeman applied to two schools and was rejected on racial grounds. He then applied to the Harvard Dental School after its founding, and in March of 1869, he was one of only six to receive the Doctor of Dental Medicine degree. After graduation, Tanner moved to Washington, D.C., and practiced dentistry until his death on June 14, 1873. The Washington Society of Colored Dentists, established in 1900, renamed itself in 1909 the Robert Tanner Freeman Dental Society in honor of America’s first African American dentist.

The determined, pioneering spirit of Dr. Robert Tanner Freeman is the reason why we feel it only appropriate to honor the legacy of Dr. Robert Tanner Freeman by naming this scholarship after him. The goal is to provide financial support and mentorship to aspiring dental students.

About Dental Trade Alliance Foundation

The DTA Foundation’s mission is to increase access to and utilization of oral health care by broadening literacy of oral health’s impact on overall health. Its vision is a healthy smile for all. The DTA Foundation works to achieve this mission through its partnerships, grants, and scholarships programs. Find out more about DTA Foundation at

About UNCF

UNCF (United Negro College Fund) is the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community and the nation, UNCF supports students’ education and development through scholarships and other programs, supports and strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness.

UNCF institutions and other historically Black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding nearly 20% of African American baccalaureate degrees. UNCF administers more than 400 programs, including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs.

Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at over 1,100 colleges and universities across the country. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized trademark, ‟A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”® Learn more at or for continuous updates and news, follow UNCF on Twitter at @UNCF.

About Patterson Companies Inc.

Patterson Companies Inc. (Nasdaq: PDCO) connects dental and animal health customers in North America and the U.K. to the latest products, technologies, services and innovative business solutions that enable operational and professional success. Our comprehensive portfolio, distribution network and supply chain is equaled only by our dedicated, knowledgeable people who deliver unrivalled expertise and unmatched customer service and support. Learn more:

About 3M

At 3M (NYSE: MMM), we apply science in collaborative ways to improve lives daily as our employees connect with customers all around the world. Learn more about 3M’s creative solutions to global challenges at or on Twitter @3M or @3MNews.

About Benco Family Foundation

The Benco Family Foundation supports solutions for oral health or community issues that are innovative, sustainable, measurable, and impactful and that drive community change and improve the lives of people.