A Brief History

Founded in 1867, the Harvard Dental School was the first dental school in the United States to be connected with a university and coordinated to its medical school, thus making the full scholarly and scientific resources of a university available to dental education.

In 1940, under President James B. Conant, the School was reorganized as the Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) to place stronger emphasis on the biological basis of oral medicine and to institute multidisciplinary programs of dental research—a major strength of the School today. A unique feature of the curriculum placed dental students in joint classes with medical students for two years of basic science and pathophysiology and for an introduction to clinical medicine at Harvard’s academic medical centers and in community health centers.

In 1957, the School of Dental Medicine was awarded a National Institute of Dental Research training grant and began to expand and enhance its postdoctoral educational programs, combining advanced clinical and biomedical research training for dentists planning careers in academic dentistry. Several postdoctoral programs were developed under the leadership of former dean Paul Goldhaber, including a four-year program leading to a doctor of medical sciences (DMSc) degree in oral biology; a five- and six-year oral and maxillofacial surgery/MD/general surgery program; and a group of three- and four-year joint-degree programs combining advanced clinical training and research in health-care systems, health policy, or biomedical sciences.

Today, HSDM’s predoctoral students still study two years of clinical medicine together with Harvard medical students; two additional years of intensive, interdisciplinary clinical science education at HSDM and affiliated extramural sites build upon this foundation. Advanced graduate students also draw upon the educational richness of the educational facilities and research institutes of the broader Harvard community and greater Boston area. HSDM provides students an intellectual experience that reflects the biological underpinnings of oral and systemic health, the value of evidence-based research, and the importance of clinical study.

Located in historic Boston, the Harvard School of Dental Medicine offers an unparalleled learning environment. The contributions of HSDM’s faculty and alumni to oral and systemic health and to the profession resonate throughout the globe.