New Scholarship Represents a ‘Decisive Step Forward’ Toward Greater Equity in Dentistry

January 13, 2021
New Scholarship Represents a ‘Decisive Step Forward’ Toward Greater Equity in Dentistry

Beginning this year, Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) will be able to offer scholarship support to dental students from underrepresented minority backgrounds with financial need through the Freeman, Grant, Franklin Scholarship. The endowed fund was recently activated with a capstone gift made by Colgate-Palmolive Company. It has also been supported by HSDM alumni and community members dedicated to expanding diversity in dentistry.

The first scholarship will be awarded to a student beginning their predoctoral (DMD) program this year and continue on an annual basis, helping HSDM admit the best and brightest students regardless of their financial means.

“I am thrilled to see this scholarship become a reality,” said Dolores Mercedes Franklin, DMD74, PD76, one of the trailblazers for which the scholarship is named. “This represents a decisive step forward in the struggle to achieve our longstanding goal of equity for predoctoral students from underrepresented racial minorities in dentistry,” said Franklin. “It holds the promise of attracting highly-qualified students and preparing them to be global leaders—leaders in their fields dedicated to improving human health, and in doing so, addressing health disparities.”

Dr. Freeman, Dr. Grant, and Dr. FranklinThe Freeman, Grant, Franklin Scholarship pays tribute to Franklin, the first African American woman to graduate from HSDM, and other prominent African American figures in HSDM's history including Robert Tanner Freeman the first African American in the United States to graduate from a dental school in 1869, and George Grant the first African American faculty member of Harvard University and the School in 1884.

“The Harvard School of Dental Medicine has a long legacy of embracing diversity. Colgate's generous support will help further our ethos to promote greater diversity, inclusion and belonging in dental education and in oral health research,” said William Giannobile, DMSc96, PD96, dean of HSDM.

Despite representing more than one-third of the U.S. population, Black and Hispanic dentists and those who identify as another race or ethnicity only represent a combined nine percent of professionals in the industry, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).

Communities that lack access to oral health often have higher rates of periodontal disease, as well as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. These same communities have been hit disproportionately hard by COVID-19 underscoring the urgency of accessible care.

Colgate, which made a donation in 2016 to kick off fundraising for the scholarship, has now contributed a total of $210,000 helping HSDM reach a total of $250,000 to activate the scholarship.

“Increasing diversity among the dental workforce is critical to our goal of realizing a cavity-free future for all,” said Noel Wallace, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Colgate-Palmolive. “Colgate understands our opportunity—and responsibility—to make oral health more equitable and accessible around the world.”