The Dream Becomes a Dental PrograM
Officially founded in 1886 as a department that would "provide the Colored people of the South with an opportunity for thoroughly preparing themselves for the practice of dentistry," Meharry's dental program opened its doors to nine students, three of whom were physicians, on October 4, 1886. Initial requirements for admission were that applicants needed to be at least 19 years old and of good moral character. Additionally, they were mandated to "pass a satisfactory examination in reading, writing, arithmetic, spelling, geography, and grammar, or bring satisfactory evidence of having completed a course in some recognized Normal School, Academy, or College." The basic costs of a Meharry dental education included a $30 annual fee and $10 graduation assessment. It bears mentioning that the dental department of Central Tennessee College (Meharry's first home) was launched as the first institution in the South for training African-American dentists.
The dental program initially lasted two years, with the first year devoted to the basic sciences and practical laboratory work (basis science courses were taught by faculty of the medical department). In the second year, students participated in extensive exercises in the dental laboratory.
Since three of the students were physicians and as graduates of the medical department, they were exempt from the first year of dental requirements. Accordingly, they were recipients of the department's first dental doctorates conferred in 1887: Henry T. Noel of Tennessee; Robert Fulton Boyd of Tennessee; and John Wesley Anderson of Texas.
The first commencement of Central Tennessee College's dental department was the eleventh commencement of the medical department, held on Monday, February 21, 1887, at Nashville's Masonic Theater, with Dean Morgan addressing the dental graduates.
And over 100 years later, the Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry continues to fulfill Dr. Hubbard's vision, serving not only as one of two historically Black dental schools in the nation, but also as a beacon for underserved populations all over the world who receive quality, compassionate, professional dental care.