As the DMD Class of 2025 arrives on campus this week, among Harvard School of Dental Medicine’s newest students will be Hoda Mahmoud, DMD25, the School’s first recipient of the Freeman, Grant, Franklin Scholarship. Mahmoud is excited to start her studies at HSDM and make an impact for individuals who are underrepresented in the field of dentistry. She chose Harvard’s DMD program for its unique focus on the integration of oral health and systemic health.
“Of the many factors that impacted my decision to attend HSDM, the aspect that most persuaded me, was its emphasis on overall health through its integration with the medical school, especially during the first year,” Mahmoud said. “Dentistry cannot be studied just by looking at the oral cavity; it must be viewed systemically in order to address underlying health issues that affect the body as a whole,” she added.
Mahmoud, a native of Chicago, was also struck by the welcoming environment that she experienced when applying to HSDM. “I loved the friendly environment that is created by faculty and students. The caring and exciting environment of Harvard is what sealed the deal for me when picking a DMD program,” she said.
Mahmoud was selected to receive the Freeman, Grant, Franklin Scholarship, a scholarship recently activated to support dental students from underrepresented minority backgrounds. The Scholarship pays tribute to prominent African American figures in HSDM's history, including Robert Tanner Freeman, DMD1869, George Grant DMD1884, and Dolores Mercedes Franklin, DMD74, PD76, the first African American woman to graduate from HSDM.
“The Freeman, Grant, Franklin Scholarship means more than just a monetary aid. For me, the significance behind the scholarship and the generosity of the donors demonstrates HSDM’s efforts to facilitate greater representation of minorities in the healthcare field,” she said.
“Growing up, I rarely came across dentists that looked like me. Only later did I make the connection that it was not the lack of interest in the field; rather, it was the lack of opportunities and representation in dentistry. The issue of the lack of minority providers in dentistry is known by most academic institutions; however, there are limited efforts to change the perspective,” Mahmoud said.
Mahmoud comes to HSDM from Illinois where she was a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), earning a Bachelor’s of Science in both Chemistry and Psychology. During her undergraduate career, she served as the president of UIC’s pre-dental club, providing leadership and guidance to students interested in pursuing careers in the dental field. Throughout her undergraduate career, she spent time working as a research assistant for the Women’s Mental Health Research Program (WMHRP) at UIC, receiving recognition for her capstone project on the correlation between perinatal anxiety and socioeconomic factors.
As she embarks on her academic journey at HSDM, Mahmoud hopes to become involved in public health research, with the goal of minimizing the negative effects that socioeconomic status can have on patient care. She is also interested in exploring the connections between mental health, systemic health, and oral health.
“As the daughter of immigrants, I have witnessed the difference in care and empathy between providers that are well-rounded in their experiences with diverse cultures, and those that have limited encounters with their patient pool,” Mahmoud said. “Empathy comes with experience, and it is an essential trait that is needed in the healthcare field. This Scholarship has increased my interest in providing better care for minority groups. With this Scholarship, I hope to be a part of the solution.”