During Black History Month, we got a glimpse into the work of Lamont Lowery, MA, Assistant Dean of Student Recruitment and Engagement, and his efforts at Adams to cultivate an equity-based approach to prospective student recruitment.
Lamont Lowery, MA, grew up in rural North Carolina and describes himself as a man of faith, a husband, a father, a son, a brother, an uncle, a nephew, a cousin, and a friend. Always believing there was something greater for him, Lowery was the first to graduate college in his family.
Lowery is the current Assistant Dean of Student Recruitment and Engagement at Adams School of Dentistry. His role at Adams is to prepare all prospective students for the dental school admissions process at UNC through one-on-one advisory sessions, as well as presentations to university groups and national organizations, including organizations at UNC and nonprofits throughout the state to help build pathways for prospective students from diverse backgrounds. His goal is to provide pre-dental students the mentorship and guidance needed during the application process, helping them fulfill their dreams. His role is to make the path visible for these prospective students, and once they arrive on campus, the work continues through the support of students, staff, and faculty to make the dream a reality.
Keeping pace with innovation
Lowery began his role during the COVID-19 pandemic and quickly assumed an essential role of innovating new ways of recruiting and reaching prospective students by creating a successful virtual shadowing series for pre-dental students to shadow procedures remotely. The series was born out of a necessity but continues today as a new and valuable form of connection for potential students.
“I was really impressed by how much of the procedure we were able to see. I saw a lot more than I usually get to see during in-person shadowing … . This experience was perfect, and it was cool to learn about things that will make us good dentists, both procedure-wise and patient-doctor interaction wise,” said three previous students who participated in one of the virtual events.
The series provides access to students — who may not have been able to visit in-person — and the opportunity to experience these actual procedures in real-time. The participants also get the chance to ask as many questions as they want via chat and receive answers in real time by another dentist observing the procedure.
“Virtual shadowing will continue to be an opportunity for prospective students to gain experience,” Lowery said. “Working in conjunction with our staff and administrators here, we are planning to scale virtual shadowing and leverage its uniqueness to provide educational opportunities for our students and dental professionals. We own this space, and it’s up to us to use it for the greater good.”
An equity-based approach
In addition to his recruitment expansion efforts, at the heart of Lowery’s work at Adams is to foster an equity-based approach to student recruitment.
“Some students have mountainous terrain while others have flatter terrain to contend. I strive to provide the path based on my experience regardless of their background, family, finances, or geography,” he said. “Our work and partnerships are paramount in building these pathways — providing opportunities of exposure that might not have been possible if we were not doing this work.”
Lowery has targeted high school and middle school students through his UNCRoots initiatives. Early exposure through these types of channels can stimulate or awaken an interest that might have gone unnoticed.
“We are extremely grateful to Mr. Lowery’s approach to recruitment – reaching out to students early in their education and his efforts to minimize barriers,” said Janet Guthmiller, DDS, PhD, Dean at ASOD. “His virtual shadowing program is simply outstanding, and one which we want to continue to support and expand.”
Creating a space for all
It is Lowery’s hope that dentistry continues its steps forward toward a more equitable and inclusive profession. From how dentists perceive and treat their patients to the ability for prospective and current students to see and work with faculty that resemble them, these forward steps are crucial.
“For example, say there is a feast, and everyone is invited no matter their background, color or economic status. Not only was everyone invited, but they all have seats at the table with place cards carrying their name. To me, this is equity and inclusion,” Lowery said. “These are great starts, but they are only pieces and cannot provide palpable change if the guests cannot be their true authentic selves at the feast. ’Belonging’ provides a sense of support and the feeling of ‘I’m not in it alone.’ It yields resiliency and provides an environment where coping effectively during the tough times can be manageable.”
“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Though February specifically honors and reflects on Black history and the Black community, it is also critical to reflect on other issues affecting people of color not just in February, but year-round.
“ … for my ideal Black History Month and what it looks like, I would simply say that February is another month in the calendar year. But because of the systems in place, the incomplete histories, and fragmented stories of African Americans in our nation, that is not our reality. For the sake of our future, I find it doubly important to acknowledge the contributions of African Americans past and present because of historical omissions of our successes. It is imperative that we openly and widely acknowledge these forgotten and overlooked contributors of America’s history. Without Black History Month, many would not have known, thought about, or even been inspired by these historical giants. The month acknowledges our collective past and provides a peek at humanity’s persistent pursuit of a greater tomorrow.”