Danielle “Danni” Burgess, a first-year resident in Harvard School of Dental Medicine’s Periodontology program, was inspired to pursue a career in dentistry so she could help individuals like her grandmother who struggled with periodontal disease and tooth loss. A new Periodontology Fellowship is helping her take a step closer to her dream. Burgess is the first recipient of the fellowship that was funded last year with the support of the program’s alumni and friends.
“I grew up in Seaforth Village, Jamaica. I was raised by my grandmother, who struggled with periodontal disease and tooth loss throughout much of my childhood,” Burgess said. “Observing the burden of oral health problems within my community in Jamaica and recognizing the disparities in access to oral health care across socioeconomic groups influenced my desire to explore periodontics from a public health perspective.”
Burgess received her BS in Microbiology and Cell Science from the University of Florida followed by her MS in Medical Science from the University of South Florida. She then went on to dental school at the University of North Carolina’s (UNC) Adams School of Dentistry where she received her DDS degree.
At UNC, she created the Women in Science Newsletter, the Women in Science Celebration Week, and the UNC Distinguished Woman in Science Award, to bring visibility to the discoveries and accomplishments of women faculty and to celebrate their contributions to the advancement of dental science and dental education. She credits strong female role models who inspired her throughout her pre-dental and dental school journey.
“My predoctoral education was greatly influenced by an impressive collection of women educators, clinicians, and researchers, who deserve to be celebrated. I would not be where I am today without the outpouring of guidance, the creation of opportunities, and the inspirational stories of perseverance and resilience from these women,” Burgess said.
During dental school she was also an active volunteer with the UNC Student National Dental Association CAARE Clinic, the Vidas de Esperanza Dental Clinic, and the UNC Malawi Project. Burgess is driven to make a difference by contributing to initiatives that mobilize periodontal health education, especially within disenfranchised communities with limited resources and access to oral health care. She also recognizes the importance of increasing the representation of Black women in the feld of periodontics.
“I was attracted to Harvard’s Perio program because I believed this program would provide me with the opportunity to evaluate periodontics and public health through diferent lenses. HSDM provides a vast network of resources that is unlike any other. I am excited to utilize these world-class resources to create a niche that is well-suited to my various interests,” she said.
“Danni’s strong academic background in medical science and dentistry, in addition to her highly successful commitment to advancing the roles of women in dentistry and her service to the community, mirrors the ideals of our program,” said T. Howard Howell, A. Lee Loomis Professor of Periodontology, and chair of the fellowship selection committee. “The periodontal residency program at Harvard has a lasting legacy of educating leaders in the education, research, service, and clinical care. We are delighted to welcome Danni to the community of periodontists at HSDM,” he added.
The fellowship will provide funding for a portion of her program. “This fellowship helps shoulder some of the financial burden that is associated with pursuing my postdoctoral education and will help foster my development as a clinician, public health advocate, and educator,” Burgess said.