Celebrating 150 Years of Dental Medicine at Harvard

May 10, 2017

Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) celebrated its 150th anniversary with a Sesquicentennial Gala held on Thursday, May 4, 2017. The event brought together nearly 150 HSDM alumni, faculty, students, and friends for a festive evening at the Harvard Art Museums.

Harvard President Drew Faust kicked off the Gala with congratulatory remarks and a champagne toast. She noted many of the School’s milestones, including that HSDM was the first American dental school to be affiliated with a university and its medical school, among other significant achievements.

A place of firsts

“The Harvard School of Dental Medicine has long been a place of firsts. A place for pioneers who devote themselves to the deeply humane work of caring for and improving the lives of people through the application and creation of knowledge,” Faust said.

“Today that work is visible in the education of students, in the work of clinicians and researchers, and the impact of efforts to promote oral health in communities both down the street and around the world.”

gala“May the beneficent work of the School continue for at least another 150 years!” she added.

Guests gathered in the Calderwood Courtyard to enjoy dinner, remarks and entertainment.

Kellie Moore, a third year DMD student, spoke of what inspired her to go to dental school and the importance of student scholarship aid.

Tools to make a difference

“Growing up it was quite uncommon for people from my family’s social circles to pursue professional degrees, and completely unheard of to pursue a doctorate degree from someplace as prestigious as Harvard,” Moore said.

“My father grew up in a southern Indiana community that lacked fluoridated water and access to dental care. He had full mouth extractions and his first complete dentures just after his sixteenth birthday,” she said.

MooreWhen presented with the opportunity to go to HSDM, Moore had to consider a tuition bill that was nearly double her family’s yearly income. A scholarship made it possible for her to follow her dream.

“When I graduate from HSDM I plan to pursue a pediatric residency and ultimately practice in a community health setting in my home state,” Moore said.

“My upbringing provided me with an awareness of oral health disparities, and the drive to address them. My HSDM education has given me the tools to make a difference.”

Dean Bruce Donoff shared the good news that almost $300,000 had been raised to fund an endowed student scholarship, a large portion of which came from Gala attendees and corporate supporters of the event.

“We’re able to give out almost 1.5 million in scholarship aid a year. As a student, I received alumni club scholarship aid. I admit in those days the tuition was nothing like it is these days. On behalf of the students, I thank you,” Donoff said.

BacowHarvard Corporation member Larry Bacow spoke on behalf of the University. He underscored the importance of HSDM’s 150 years, and of scholarships to support the School’s students and its mission.

 “This School has generated great scholarship; it has generated great leaders…it has generated great practitioners for the world. In doing so, I think you’ve helped to create a wonderful network and tradition of oral health care, support for systemic health, and for public health in the United States and throughout the world,” Bacow said.

The evening concluded with an energetic performance by the Harvard Din and Tonics, a student a cappella group.

Education for the next 150 years

The Gala was followed by an Educational Summit held the next day, Friday, May 5, at HSDM. The morning’s program featured a keynote presentation by Dr. Paul Farmer, Kolokotrones University Professor and Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Farmer spoke about his work with Partners In Health, an international non-profit organization he co-founded, that provides health care services and advocacy on behalf of those who are sick and living in poverty.

FarmerFarmer began his remarks by recalling his ties to HSDM and to Dean Bruce Donoff and other faculty.

“I’ve been an admirer of the School since I received my first dental care as a medical student right here,” Farmer said.

His presentation on global health equity focused on work that has been done to address critical health issues in developing countries.

“Oral health is a key, if not one of the ranking problems, that anyone interested in global health equity understands,” he said.

Farmer stressed the importance of not only focusing on health crises, but strengthening underlying health systems–with staff, space, systems and training–to address oral health and disease prevention around the world.

Farmer’s keynote was followed by concurrent educational sessions focused on many aspects of dentistry including the historical foundations of dentistry; women innovators in the profession; the future of dental education and patient care; the integration of oral health and primary care, and other topics.

View photos from the Gala, and Educational Summit.

Learn more about the School's 150-year legacy through the anniversary website and 150th video.