Program in Dentistry, the Social Sciences, and Health (DeSH)

Oral health has a significant – yet often overlooked – impact on the wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities.  Successful efforts to understand this impact and improve oral health require innovative leaders who have dental training, a deep understanding of oral health’s underlying socioeconomic causes and consequences, and expertise in cutting-edge social science research methods that PhD training provides.

Funded by the George E. Richmond Foundation, The Program in Dentistry, the Social Sciences, and Health (DeSH) offers an opportunity for individuals who are enrolled in or have completed a DDS or DMD from any institution to earn a PhD from a social science program at the University of Chicago. The goal is to train dentists to become innovative clinician-scholars and conduct groundbreaking research at the interface of oral health, systemic health, and society.

DeSH is currently accepting applications for the 2020-2021 academic year. The deadline to apply is December 3, 2019, at 5 PM CST. Learn more about how to apply to DeSH here.


Program Overview

Prospective students must apply and gain admissions to both the DeSH program administered through the Center for Health and the Social Sciences (CHeSS) and any social science PhD program(s) of interest at UChicago. Eligible doctoral programs include:

Prospective students may apply to DeSH through one of two tracks:

  1. Dental Student Track: Students who have been admitted or are currently enrolled in a DDS or DMD program may apply to DeSH before their first, second, or third year of dental school. Accepted students in this track will work with their dental school, their PhD program, and DeSH faculty to develop a training timeline at each institution that maximizes the benefits of learning and scholarship in both doctoral programs.
  2. Dental Professional Track: Dentists who have completed a DDS or DMD degree may apply to DeSH during the last year of their residency training or at any point during their professional careers. Once admitted, students in this track will complete their PhD training at UChicago without any breaks in the program.

Upon gaining acceptance to DeSH, students are integrated into CHeSS, where they receive administrative support, access to interdisciplinary workshops and courses, and mentorship. Consisting of 3-4 faculty members from across the university, mentorship teams provide ongoing support and advisement to students as they progress through dental school and their respective PhD programs. Mentorship teams will include an MD-PhD faculty member, a mentor from the student’s graduate program, and a faculty member with expertise at the interface of oral health and the social sciences. DeSH students also join an existing community of dual degree students from the MD-PhD Program in Medicine, the Social Sciences, and Humanities (MeSH), and they have the opportunity to participate in interdisciplinary oral health research projects across campus.


Tuition and Stipend Support

DeSH students receive tuition and stipend support for their graduate training at UChicago. Grant funding from the Richmond Foundation provides one year of support, and each student’s PhD program provides support for the remaining years of graduate training. DeSH does not provide any funding support for dental school.

Learn more about the DeSH application timeline and instructions here. Applicants should also review the frequently asked questions before applying.



Please direct any questions regarding DeSH to program administrator Kelsey Bogue at You may also contact faculty directors David Meltzer, MD, PhD, at and Kathleen Cagney, PhD, at


For more information

DeSH is a part of the Program in Oral Health, Systemic Health, Well-being, and the Social Sciences, which is funded by the Richmond Foundation. Learn more about the program’s faculty directors, affiliated research projects, and training opportunities here.