PITTSBURGH — A Brookville High School and University of Pittsburgh alumna has earned a competitive, full-tuition, national scholarship to Pitt Dental, where she was also the only student in her class admitted into the DMD/MPH dual-degree program.
Katelyn Means has been awarded the National Health Service Corps Scholarship, which will fund all four years of her Doctor of Dental Medicine and Master of Public Health program at the University of Pittsburgh. In return, the scholarship program requires four years of service practicing dentistry in a medically underserved community after graduation.
Means says her experience as both a patient and a caregiver sparked her interest in practicing dentistry in communities of high need, and subsequently in applying for the federal scholarship. During her service, she will work in a federally qualified “Health Professional Shortage Area,” or HPSA, where geography or socioeconomic disadvantages have led to a lack of healthcare providers. Regions of Jefferson County are recognized through the program as HPSAs for various reasons, including shortages in dental and mental healthcare providers, rural geographic status, and generally being medically underserved.
“Nothing is worse than a doctor rushing into your exam room and speaking over your head about a diagnosis or treatment plan,” Means says. “I’ve witnessed this too many times in rural or low-income areas that just doesn’t have access to enough doctors. As a dentist, I want to emphasize educating and communicating with my patients — building a real relationship with patients so they are comfortable and fully understand their care.”
Each year, only one or two students in each class at Pitt Dental are invited to apply for the dual DMD and Master of Public Health program. After earning the scholarship, Means was even more driven to pursue additional training in public health disparities, which led to her interest in applying to the MPH program. She hopes the Master’s will enrich her understanding of public health issues, and improve her service as a healthcare provider in an underserved community.
“I spent most of my time as an undergrad at Pitt working full-time while being a full-time student. That meant keeping two restaurant jobs within the city on top of my campus leadership roles, volunteer positions, and other extracurriculars,” Means says. “The financial relief of this scholarship, and now my ability to pursue two degrees within the time of one, are immeasurable for me, my family, and for the care I will be able to give my patients as I fulfill my service commitment.”
Though Brookville will always be “home” to Means, she does not plan to return to the area to practice immediately after finishing school.
“I have loved traveling and fully immersing myself in new places for as long as I can remember — particularly outdoors, and I’d like to thank the beauty and people of the Pennsylvania Wilds for teaching me that appreciation,” Means says. “I’d love to go West for awhile, maybe to Montana or Idaho, to serve a community where my experience and skills are needed even more than they are at home.”
The National Health Service Corps Scholarship program is a division of the Health Resources and Services Administration within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Means’ full scholarship was one of only 222 scholarships awarded nationally in 2018. In April 2018, Means completed her Bachelor’s of Science in Microbiology at Pitt, with minors in Studio Arts and Chemistry. Means graduated from Brookville High School in 2014 and is the daughter of Kim and Jake Means of Brookville.