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Penn Dental Medicine Historical Perspective on Diversity

A timeline of some key events that trace the history of diversity at Penn Dental.


Penn’s Department of Dentistry was established by the Trustees of the Uiversity of Pennsylvania.


Dr. James Brister, an 1881 graduate of the Dental School, is the first known minority graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. The James Brister Society has been named in his honor. The society’s mission is “to support and promote the University of Pennsylvania’s efforts to attract, encourage, and maintain a culturally diverse community of faculty, students, administrators, staff, and volunteers, thus enriching the University community as a whole.” Learn more about the James Brister Society »


The Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery, the 3rd oldest dental school in existence, which operated from 1856 to 1909, merged with the University of Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery graduated 2,473 dentists over its 53-year history. The decision to merge with Penn was primarily an economic decision, and Penn was chosen because of the close historical relationship between the faculties of the two schools. The Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery had more than five women enrolled in 1897. Henrietta Hirschfeld, from Berlin, Germany, and a member of the College’s Class of 1869, was the first woman to study dentistry in Philadelphia Annie D. Ramborger, Class of 1874, and was one of the first American women graduates

The merging of the two schools resulted in a very diverse student body as students from the College hailed from Japan, Australia, and Cuba. The Class of 1908 had students from Russia, Canada, Costa Rica, Switzerland, and Mexico. The class of 1907 had students from Hungary, Wales, & Cuba. The class of 1906 had students from Australia and Japan.


The Latin American Dental Society was organized on February 19, 1913, and since then, the Society has lived up to its constitution, which provides for education and mutual improvement of its members in all matters pertaining to the science of dentistry. Meetings are held monthly in Houston Hall.


The School of Medicine and the School of Dental Medicine admitted women for the first time. Miss Mary Margaret Moore held the position of Vice President of the Class during her first year at Penn Dental. Dr. Moore graduated with the Class of 1918.


At the Commencement held on June 20, the University awarded the degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery to Jessica Longsdorf Bozorth, Jane Nathan, and Esther Schupack. They were the first women to earn the D.D.S. degree at Penn.


Carrie Kirk Bryant (B.S. in Biol., 1907) was appointed to the faculty position of Instructor in Bacteriology. In 1926 she was promoted to Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Bacteriology. For several years she served the School as chairperson of its Research Committee of the Faculty. In 1928 she co-authored, with J.L.T. Appleton, Jr., A Laboratory Guide in Bacteriology particularly for Students in Dentistry (Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger, 1928). She was the first woman to serve as an Officer of Instruction at the School of Dental Medicine and the first woman to be a member of the Dental School’s standing faculty.


Two organizations for women were formed: The Women’s Dental Society (for the women dental students at the school), and the Penn-Dent Wives (for the wives of the male dental students).


Dr. Benjamin F. Hammond, Associate Professor of Microbiology, was awarded the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching. His duties included Professor (1970-1991) and Chairman (1972-1985), Department of Microbiology; Director, Periodontal Microbiology Laboratory, (1980-1991); Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, (1984-1991); Professor Emeritus of Microbiology, University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine (1991-present).


Penn Dental Medicine chapter of the Student National Dental Association was founded in 1970. SNDA’s mission remains promoting and encouraging the increase of minority enrollment and retention in dental schools, educating its members in the social, moral, and ethical obligations of the profession of dentistry and promoting a viable academic and social environment. Since then it has been joined by other student associations such as the Hispanic Student Dental Association, and most recently (2012) AMALGAM, Penn Dental Medicines’ LBGT association.


Penn Dental Medicine established an affiliation with the Hadassah School of Dental Medicine at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, whereby the two schools cooperated in research and teaching, as well as faculty and student exchanges. This was the beginning of the international externship program, enabling students to expand their perspective on dental education and oral health care delivery to different cultures throughout the world.


Dr. Phoebe Leboy, Professor of Biochemistry, became the first woman to achieve the rank of full professor in the Dental School, and she remained the only female full professor until 1998. In 1981, Dr. Leboy held the distinction of being the first Penn Dental Medicine faculty member to chair the University Faculty Senate. She also held the Helen and Robert Davies Chair, served as Chair of the Department of Biochemistry, and received the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2005.


The first formal PASS class was admitted. Designed for foreign-trained dentists who want to practice in the U.S., students in the two-year program join the third-year class, graduating with a DMD. Each class brings 30 – 35 students from around the world.


Dr. Raymond Fonseca was appointed Dean of Penn Dental Medicine. Prior to coming to Penn, Dr. Fonseca had an illustrious career as Professor of Oral Medicine, Pathology, and Surgery at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry.


Penn Dental Medicine’s Office of International Relations was created, fostering international exchange in dental education, research, and care.


Penn Dental Medicine was designated a World Health Organization Collaborating Center Oral Infectious Diseases: Education, Research and Access to Care.


Establishment of the School’s academically based service-learning programs, providing students and faculty with the framework to engage with diverse segments of the community as a required component of academic course work. The service-learning programs express the School’s core commitment to engage and collaborate with the local community to improve quality of life and represent a viable and sustainable solution to increase access to oral health care.


Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat, award-winning dental researcher, professor and administrator at the University of Alabama School of Dentistry, was named Morton Amsterdam Dean of the School of Dental Medicine. She was the first woman to serve as Dean of Penn Dental Medicine.


Dr. Sherrill L. Adams, Professor of Biochemistry, was named as Chair of the Senate Committee on Faculty Development, Diversity and Equity, which played an important role in advocating mentoring for all junior faculty in the University, building on her development of a program in Penn Dental to mentor junior faculty. Dr. Adams was also the founding president of the Penn Forum for Women Faculty, an advocacy and networking organization for women faculty throughout the University. And she served as Chair of the Faculty Senate, was awarded the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2002, and served as Chair of the Department of Biochemistry.


Dr. Lewis E. Proffitt, who earned a DMD at Penn Dental Medicine in 1973 and an MBA from Wharton in 1980, became a member of the Penn Dental Medicine Board of Overseers. He heads a successful multidisciplinary dental practice in Marlton, N.J., and also maintains strong ties to the School; he is an active Admissions Advisor; and as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Periodontics, he is currently involved in research projects related to the impact of periodontal disease on preterm birth and Type II Diabetes. In addition, he served as President of the Penn Dental Medicine Alumni Society in 2002-2003 and received the Alumni Award of Merit in 2003.

Active in civic leadership and community service activities, Dr. Proffitt is a member of Sigma Pi Phi, one of the largest and oldest African American fraternities in the nation, having held many planning, program development, and fundraising roles at the local, regional, and national levels. He is also past President of the New Era Dental Society, the Philadelphia-area chapter of the National Dental Association.


Dr. Linda Gilliam, who earned a DMD at Penn Dental Medicine in 1989, became a member of the Penn Dental Medicine Board of Overseers in 2003 In 2009 she was elected Vice-Chair of the Board and served in that capacity until the end of 2012. The Linda Gilliam Endowed Education Fund is used to support conference travel for Penn Dental Medicine students to meetings that emphasize important dental and related health issues which impact the underrepresented minority community, or that provide programming that shares and reflects the diversity within the school.


Dr. Beverley Crawford was appointed Director of Diversity Affairs, overseeing programs to recruit and support minority students. A 1986 graduate of Howard University School of Dentistry, Dr Crawford joined Penn Dental Medicine in 1989 as a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Preventive and Restorative Sciences, and as a Staff Dentist in the Penn Faculty Practice in 2000.


QADSA (Queer and Ally Dental Student Association) is formed and exists as the first LGBTQ student organization at Penn Dental Medicine.


Dr. Andres Pinto, Associate Professor of Oral Medicine and Community Oral Health, and Director of Oral Medicine Services, was named Chief of the Division of Community Oral Health. Dr. Pinto was the first dentist to train in Penn’s Master of Public Health program, earning his degree in 2007. In 2005 he was awarded the Hispanic Dental Association Colgate Palmolive, Inc. Public Health Award.


Dr. Anh Le is appointed Chair and Norman Vine Endowed Professor of Oral Rehabilitation, Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery/Pharmacology.


Dr. Chun-Hsi Chung is appointed Chair and Associate Professor of Orthodontics and Director of the Postdoctoral Orthodontic Program. His primary research interests include craniofacial growth and development, the relationship between transverse dentofacial dimension and vertical facial morphology, orthodontic temporary anchorage devices (TAD), skeletal and dental changes after rapid palatal expansion (RPE) in children and surgically assisted RPE in adults utilizing cephalograms and cone beam CT images


Development of the action plan, “Increasing Faculty Excellence through Diversity.”


The Penn Dental LGBTQ Student Alliance is reformed under the name AMALGAM (A Mosaic of Allies, Lesbians, Gays, And More) in conjunction with the Office of Diversity Affairs. AMALGAM’s mission statement is: “to promote social support and inclusion among the dental professional community at Penn Dental Medicine for LGBTQ. We strive to maintain an alliance among the student body regardless of sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity, whose purpose is to endorse non-discriminatory policies and actions. The alliance also serves as a resource for awareness and education regarding the health needs of the LGBTQ population.


Penn Dental Medicine among the schools participating in the Penn Medicine Program for LBT Health.

“At Penn Dental today, the many student groups and programs enable us to celebrate our diversity and support others with similar backgrounds.”

Rachel Calloway

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View Towards Inclusion: Diversity at Penn »
A video commissioned by the University of Pennsylvania and the James Brister Society. Produced by Penn Cinema Studies lecturer and Macarthur Fellow, Louis J. Massiah. Copyright 2006, The Scribe Video Center.

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