Penn Dental Medicine Presents First Annual Pride Celebration


Philadelphia — Hosting what will become an annual event, Penn Dental Medicine presented the First Annual Penn Dental Medicine Pride Celebration on October 7, bringing together faculty, staff, students, and alumni to celebrate diversity and build community within the School. The event, supported by the Office of the Dean, was organized by Margaret Yang, Office of Student Affairs, and Richard Le, Office of Human Resources, in collaboration with the Penn Dental Pride Alliance and the University’s LGBT Center.

“The LGBTQiA+ community at Penn Dental Medicine is an active and vital part of our DNA — our faculty, our students, our staff, and our patients,” said Dean Mark Wolff at the event. “The School is committed to making this a safe place to work, teach, learn, and receive patient care. Within these walls, all must know that we have a strong commitment to nurture and support the best in each of us.”

Dean Wolff opened the evening’s program along with Erin Cross, Director of Penn’s LGBT Center, who noted Penn Dental Medicine’s leadership in its support of the LGBTQiA+ community. “I have been at Penn for over 20 years and never thought I would see this day,” said Cross. “The day when an entire school holds a pride celebration, which will be the first of more for years to come. Penn Dental Medicine has made large strides in supporting our community.”

As part of the program, students and faculty shared experiences and perspectives as someone either in the LGBTQiA+ community or as an ally. Shirley Zhang (D’21) and Travis Toth (D’21), both in leadership roles of the Penn Dental Pride Alliance, were among the speakers, as well as Dr. Oswaldo Nieves, an Instructor in the Department of Preventive & Restorative Sciences. Also taking time out of his dental practice to attend the event and share his perspective was alumnus Dr. Carlos Huerta, a 2004 graduate of Penn Dental Medicine, who spoke on his personal experience when in dental school as the only out student at that time.

It was in 2012 that the first LGBTQiA+ student organization was formed at Penn Dental Medicine, which has evolved into the current Penn Dental Pride Alliance with the mission of unifying and supporting LGBTQiA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and others) dental students, faculty, administration, staff, and their supporters. Looking back over the LGBTQiA+ history at Penn Dental Medicine was librarian Laurel Graham, who introduced the online resource guide which the library has created to see the history of the LGBTQ+ community in oral health, both at Penn and elsewhere, with greater clarity and richness.

The Inaugural LGBTQIA+ Advocacy Awards were also presented as part of the event, recognizing recipients’ efforts to support diversity and inclusion. Student honorees included Shirley Zhang (D’21) and Travis Toth (D’21). Faculty awards were presented Dr. Beverley Crawford, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, and Dr. George Lynch, Clinical Associate, Division of Pediatric Dentistry; and the staff recipients included John O’Donnell, Associate Director of Advanced Dental Education and Academic Affairs Registrar; and Bryan Cole Smith, Program Coordinator in the Department of Oral Medicine, who works within the Medically Complex Clinic.

Earlier in the day, Penn Dental Medicine also held LGBTQI awareness and training for faculty and staff facilitated by Malik Muhammad, Associate Director of Penn’s LGBT Center, and Ralph De Lucia from the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs.

“We will continue to grow as a community that respects and welcomes all,” added Dean Wolff.I can promise that Penn Dental Medicine stands firmly on protecting the rights of our LGBTQiA+ community. We will celebrate each other and work every day to champion inclusion.”