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Chandra Minor is a trailblazer in the state’s health care landscape

By Alana Bowman

University of Mississippi

JACKSON — Mississippi has 1,361 practicing dentists. Of those, 78 are orthodontists. Of those, 14 percent are female. Of those, only one is African-American: Dr. Chandra Minor, a 2012 graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Dentistry.

Being the only black female orthodontist practicing in the state isn’t the only thing that’s special about Minor. Her drive, determination and focus have made her a standout since high school.

“Chandra has had her head on straight the whole time,” said Dr. Gaarmel Funches, director of community education and outreach and assistant director for multicultural affairs at UMMC. “She is one of the few students who went from the high school program all the way through the outreach programs to being accepted into dental school.”

An EXCEL student

Funches is referring to EXCEL and Medical Cooperative Program, or MEDCORP, that Minor participated in as a high school and undergraduate student. EXCEL was funded by a federal Health Careers Opportunity Program grant through the Department of Health and Human Services.

Minor was a perfect example of the student the EXCEL program was designed to assist: underrepresented students from rural areas. She grew up in a rural community just outside Hazlehurst.

“The allied health program introduced us to the health field, more like nursing though, really,” Minor said. “We had rotations at our local nursing home, learning to do things there.”

Dental school

Minor graduated in 2004 as valedictorian of her class at Hazlehurst High School and went on to earn a degree in biology from Alcorn State University. She was then accepted into the School of Dentistry.

“Being accepted into dental school was a surreal moment,” she said. “I worked hard. I always tried my best in school, but I was grateful for the opportunity. I understood that they only accept a small number of students in comparison to the number of applications they receive.”

Minor completed her orthodontics residency at Howard University in Washington, D.C. and began her practice in 2014.

A role model

Other black women have graduated from the School of Dentistry and pursued specialties in orthodontics; however, Minor is the first to return to Mississippi to practice.

“I’m really happy that she came back to practice orthodontics in Mississippi,” said Dr. Wilhelmina O’Reilly, assistant dean for student affairs and professor of pediatric dentistry and community oral health. “I think it helps with health disparities when patients see ethnicities such as themselves.

For Minor, there is no place she’d rather be than in Mississippi. As a recipient of the Robert Hearin Scholarship, practicing in Mississippi was a requirement after she completed training.

“I accepted the scholarship with the thought, ‘Where else would I live? Mississippi is home,’” she said. “Of course I’m going to live in Mississippi. Most of my family is here.”