UA Welcomes Inaugural Class of Rural Dental Scholars

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences welcomed four rural Alabama students aspiring to practice dentistry in the state’s rural communities to the inaugural class of the Rural Dental Scholars Program.

The class of Rural Dental Scholars includes Catherine Hill, of Grant; Landon McCardle, of Dothan; Joshua Perry, of Guntersville; and Aubrey Stewart, of Dothan. 

The new program is a separate admissions pathway to The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry specifically for students from rural Alabama. To be eligible for the program, students must have either lived in rural Alabama for eight years or have graduated from a rural Alabama high school. This postgraduate program includes a year of study and a master’s degree in rural community health at CCHS, as well as early admission to the UAB School of Dentistry. 

During the year of study at CCHS, students will engage in biomedical science courses designed to adequately prepare scholars for a rigorous dental school curriculum, as well as seminar courses in rural health, community engagement experiences, and shadowing dental providers. After completion of the master’s degree, students will spend the next four years at the UAB School of Dentistry. 

The program is modeled after the CCHS’ very successful Rural Medical Scholars Program. 

“The Rural Dental Scholars Program is a partnership between CCHS Rural Programs and the UAB School of Dentistry to recruit students who are interested in practicing dentistry in a rural area of our state,” said Dr. Drake Lavender, associate professor of family medicine and director of CCHS Rural Programs. “Oral health is a huge component of the overall health of an individual. We are mindful that there is a lack of access to dental care in our rural areas, so this program fits in well with our other programs, as well as the overall mission of CCHS.”

The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.


Bryant Welbourne, UA Strategic Communications,, 205-348-8325