SNDA co-hosts Black History Month Celebration and SNDA District One Dinner

Photo Credit: Bobby Guliani

In what has now become an annual tradition, students and faculty from all three Boston dental schools came together in February to celebrate Black History Month and, in so doing, to forge a sense of connection and belonging.

“Peer mentorship and networking is important for our students—perhaps more so for students from underrepresented groups,” said Dr. Larry Dunham, Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (GSDM) director of Diversity & Multicultural Affairs. “This [event] is part of our ongoing effort to maintain and further develop a sense of belonging among our students.

Dunham chairs the School’s Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Belonging Committee (DIEBAC) at GSDM, a special initiative that aims to assess the current diversity and inclusion climate at the school and continue to nurture an inclusive and welcoming campus for faculty, students, residents and staff.

The fifth annual Black History Month Celebration and Student National Dental Association (SNDA) District One Dinner on Friday, February 7, 2020, which was co-hosted by GSDM and SNDA, is just one of many efforts supported by DIEBAC that is helping to create an inclusive environment at GSDM. The dinner was a combined effort between the Student Affairs and Diversity and Multicultural Affairs offices at GSDM, and the SNDA organizations of the three schools.

“The Black History Month dinner was a beautiful event to commemorate African Americans in dentistry,” said Moyosola Afolabi DMD 22 and SNDA-NDA Liaison. “It was an event to honor those who have paved the way for us thus far and those who are still trail blazing for future practitioners of color yet to come. We were able to celebrate not only our presence in dentistry, but artists in our community.”

“It was an amazing event and yet another reminder of how far we as African Americans have come in the field of dentistry,” said Daniel Boateng, president of the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine SNDA chapter. “Being able to collectively celebrate Black history with our SNDA family at Boston University always presents an intriguing opportunity to fellowship with colleagues and discuss how we can further our presence in the field as the new generation of dentists.”

Dr. Brian Swann, assistant professor of Oral Health Policy and Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, delivered the keynote address. Swann shared with attendees an overview of contributions made by black people to oral healthcare in America, including the first person of African descent to graduate from dental school (Robert T. Freeman, who graduated from Harvard in 1869). He also discussed how dental organizations emerged to become the National Dental Association, which played a significant role for Black dentists as they were not welcome to join the American Dental Association (ADA) until 1964. He closed with a discussion of children’s oral health month, which also takes place in February.

“The emphasis here was the alarming disparities that still exist today for children of color in America—with Black and Native American children having the greatest rate of untreated decay and tooth loss,” Swann said. “The challenge was posed to the audience—what will be your role to educate and treat your community?”

The SNDA chapter at GSDM re-launched during the 2007-2008 academic school year and is a diverse and all-inclusive organization which exists to help the growth of members academically and professionally. SNDA supports and mentors pre-dental students, especially those of underrepresented minorities; educates its members in the social, moral, and ethical obligations of the profession of dentistry; and improves access to dental care and the delivery of dental services to all people, emphasizing minorities and the underserved through education and community service.

“I am proud of the role that our school’s SNDA chapter played in putting on this event,” said Dean Jeffrey W. Hutter. “GSDM, along with Tufts and Harvard, is committed to promoting diversity and inclusion, and this annual event is a wonderful example of that.”