August 16, 2021 | Downers Grove, IL
Midwestern University in cooperation with the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation is pleased to announce the recipients of a new scholarship intended to foster student body diversity and extend opportunities for healthcare students from underrepresented minority groups. Two first-generation college students — Orquidea Rafuls of Miami, Florida and Kayla Reyes of Chester County, Pennsylvania — are the first to earn $50,000 scholarships each that will be awarded annually to eligible students at Midwestern University’s College of Dental Medicine-Illinois (CDMI).
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 the following criteria: 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. “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 Orquidea Rafuls (CDMI 2025) is the first member of her family to pursue graduate education in the United States. Rafuls is a graduate of Miami Dade College, FL, and was drawn to the field of dental medicine after visiting her aunt’s dental clinic in the Dominican Republic. “At a young age, I would visit my aunt’s clinic and watch as she masterfully handled various dental health problems in the community,” she said. “The way she interacted with patients inspired me to pursue a career in dentistry so I could also make an impact in the community.”
Rafuls worked for several years as a dental assistant and is looking forward to starting her professional dental medicine education with the help of the Delta Dental of Illinois Diversity Admissions Scholarship. “I decided to enroll at Midwestern University because I was impressed with their commitment to not just teach their students dental medicine, but also to create innovative leaders who would excel in their field,” she said. “Receiving this scholarship validates the sacrifices I made to get to this point. For many years, I had to slowly pursue my education so that I could work, financially support my mother, and help raise my three younger sisters. These hardships tested and strengthened me, but when I finally was able to receive my college diploma, I knew that it was all worth it. Receiving the phone call that I was accepted into Midwestern University was a dream come true and I can never express how grateful I am for this opportunity,” she added.
Kayla Reyes (CDMI 2025) is also a first-generation college student. She recently worked as a dental assistant at a practice dedicated to treating patients with special needs and has pursued additional training to help support individuals with various disabilities. After completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Reyes became active in the organization Community Volunteers in Medicine (CVIM), which serves many immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries. “Witnessing their pain-free smiles after treatment assures me that every contribution makes a difference,” Reyes said. “Being able to serve as a source of knowledge at the clinic by training my peers in dental procedural techniques, the intricacies of patient care within a community health center, and Spanish dental terminology has also been motivating for me as each volunteer shares the desire to reduce healthcare disparities in underserved communities.”
As she begins her studies at the College of Dental Medicine-Illinois, Reyes is looking forward to being part of an educational community that values service to others and being able to help provide care to a wide range of patients as part of the University’s Dental Institute. “It is an absolute honor to be awarded this scholarship that supports students like myself from different backgrounds,” Reyes said. “The opportunity being granted to me to pursue my ultimate goal to one day practice in an underserved community as a culturally competent and compassionate dental professional is incredible and allows me to serve as a representation of diversity at Midwestern University.”
Learn more about the educational opportunities offered at Midwestern University’s College of Dental Medicine-Illinois at midwestern.edu and the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation at deltadentalil.com/ddilfoundation.
Orquidea Rafuls (CDMI 2025)
Kayla Reyes (CDMI 2025)