AIDPH is deeply saddened, angered, and disturbed by the recent legal decisions rendered by the Supreme Court of the United States that threaten our core values of diversity, equity, justice, and inclusion. In light of the implications of such decisions, AIDPH reaffirms its commitment to disrupting systems of inequity, specifically in dental public health.
On June 29, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on two cases, Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina, overturning a precedent the Court most recently upheld in 2003. On June 30, the Court ruled on 303 Creative v. Elenis, which ruled in favor of a designer who refused services to a gay couple. The devastating impact of these rulings cannot be fully realized at this time but it is clear the implications for the dental workforce, patient care, and education are significant:
- We need more dental providers who look like the people they serve. Dentists and other oral health clinicians are disproportionately white, clearly depicting the impact of systemic racism in the oral health workforce and, as a result, patient dental care. The decision to overturn policies that promote racial equity will reduce needed diversity in the oral health workforce. Dentists of color are more likely to serve patients of color as well as individuals in underserved communities. AIDPH remains committed to supporting a racially equitable oral health workforce that reduces disparities and improves outcomes. Following the words of Justice Kentanji Brown Jackson in her dissent, “The only way out of this morass – for all of us – is to stare at racial disparity unblinkingly, and then do what evidence and experts tell us is required to level the playing field and march forward together, collectively striving to achieve true equality for all Americans.”
- We need more dental providers who invest in policies, procedures, and training for serving LGBTQIA+ people. Cultural insensitivity and queerphobia among healthcare staff results in dental anxiety and chronic poor health outcomes. The 303 Creative v. Elenis decision further perpetuates a system of discrimination in place of one that honors lived experiences and personalized patient care. AIDPH is committed to supporting dental providers as they work to improve every patient’s experience, health, and well-being. Following the words of Justice Sonya Sotomayer in her dissent, “I fear that the symbolic damage of the Court’s opinion is done. But that does not mean that we are powerless in the face of the decision. The meaning of our Constitution is found not in any law volume, but in the spirit of the people who live under it. Every business owner in America has a choice whether to live out the values in the Constitution. Make no mistake: Invidious discrimination is not one of them.”
AIDPH will continue to engage in efforts that increase the diversity of the dental workforce and equitable access to care for marginalized, disenfranchised, and historically excluded communities. We will value differences of opinion and the right to raise our voices while listening authentically to others. More than ever, we must stand up and be allies for people of color and LGBTQIA+ individuals who are increasingly targeted at federal, state, and community levels. Real diversity, equity, justice, and inclusion can only be achieved through dedication, responsibility, and change.