Making History | A Message from the Dean

In 2016, the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) Snapshot reported the results of a faculty survey indicating 66% of dental education faculty were male and 34% were female for the 2014-2015 academic year. Three years later the report indicated a similar ratio: 63.2% male and 36.8% female. A deeper look at this data reveals a shifting trend: faculty in the under 30 -39 years age range is more female than male. This faculty trend parallels student enrollment, as many schools similar to us are enrolling more women than men. This is a stark contrast to the 1960’s, when the percentage of women in dental school was approximately 1%.

Edith White
Dr. Edith White

In Minnesota, women have been a part of dentistry since the 1800s. The 1890 Dental Cosmos documented the graduates in dentistry, and Dr. Edith White was listed in the class of honorees in the second class of graduates from the School of Dentistry. In Mellor R. Holland’s book on the history of our school, Dr. White is described as an adventurous person who liked to travel. Without doubt, Dr. White was a trailblazer and a pioneer leading the way for all the women in dentistry to follow.

SOD grad records

Kathleen J. Newell, M. Ed., PhD, four-time alumna of the University of Minnesota and emeriti faculty of the School of Dentistry, served in various roles in the dental hygiene program from 1969-2008, including division director. Her impact was tremendous as she was responsible for the evolution of the program and restructuring the graduate dental hygiene program. She was also an ally in confronting domestic violence. She collaborated with the Ernst Moritz Arndt University in Greifswald, Germany on the formation of an international dental hygiene continuing education program. Her passion and deep commitment to oral health are recorded in the annals of SOD history.

These are just two examples of how women have made a historical impact on society and, more specifically, dentistry. There are numerous other past and current stories to share. During Women’s History Month, I recognize the past, present and future women who will be trailblazers, committing career and passion to the pursuit of improving oral health for all populations. I would be remiss if I did not share a recent work by Price, Sinkford, and Woolfolk, titled Undaunted Trailblazers: Minority Women Leaders for Oral Health, which profiles the stories of these great leaders. I look forward to hearing more future stories about the lives of our own female faculty.

Happy Women’s History Month.

The history of women in dentistry

Dr. Olga Lentz 

Dental College Commencements, a record