9 Diversity Milestones in Dentistry

Dental Products Report, Dental Products Report June 2021, Volume 55, Issue 6

A look at some of the pioneers and key moments in the diversification of the dental industry.

The US dental industry is far more diverse today than it was just a decade or 2 ago, but it still has a long way to go to be an accurate reflection of the US population. The industry was once almost exclusively White and male for many years, but that has been changing—with the pace of change increasing.

This shift is important because minority populations exhibit poorer oral health outcomes due to a range of socio-economic factors. A more diverse dental industry will be better equipped to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse population. Each step toward greater diversity requires a “first” along the way. What follows are 9 such milestones in dental diversity.

1866 Lucy Beaman Hobbs Taylor graduates from the Ohio College of Dentistry to become the first woman to graduate with a doctorate in dentistry.

1869 Robert Tanner Freeman and George Franklin Grant graduate from Harvard University’s School of Dentistry, becoming the first professionally trained African American dentists in the US. Dr Freeman goes into private practice, and Dr Grant stays on at Harvard to become the first African American faculty member at the university.

1890 Ida Gray Nelson Rollins graduates from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, becoming the first professionally trained female African American dentist.

1905 Faith Sai So Leong, DDS, becomes the first female Chinese American dentist after graduating from College of Physicians and Surgeons, now known as University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry.

1975 Jeanne Sinkford, DDS, PhD, DSc, FACD, FICD, is named dean of Howard University College of Dentistry to become the first female dean at a US dental school.

1991 Geraldine Morrow, DMD, becomes the first female president of the American Dental Association.

2003 Rear Admiral Carol Turner is named the first female chief of the US Navy Dental Corps.

2010 Raymond Gist, DDS, becomes the first African American to serve as president of the American Dental Association.

2019 More than half of US dental school graduates are female for the first time.