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School of Dentistry Celebrates 125 Years

Meharry's School of Dentistry (SOD), the first dental school for African-Americans in the South, celebrated its 125th anniversary.

"This celebration marks a magnificent accomplishment by the school, as it relates to the education and training of oral health care providers as well as the provision of service to our community," says Dr. Janet H. Southerland, Dean of Meharry's School of Dentistry. "We are extremely excited about the celebration and it is an honor of a lifetime."

One of the goals of the celebration is to ensure the school's history will be appropriately recognized as the foundation for today's progress and tomorrow's future growth.

In 1884, the trustees of Central Tennessee College (Meharry Medical College's original namesake) considered the feasibility of adding dental education as part of the medical curriculum. In 1886, the dental curriculum was organized within the medical school "to provide the Colored people of the South with an opportunity for thoroughly preparing themselves for the practice of dentistry," according to the book, Dental Education at Meharry Medical College, written by Dr. Clifton Dummett.

"Dental needs in the South were enormous," explains Dr. Henry A. Moses, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Office of Alumni Affairs and Professor Emeritus. According to Moses, the School of Dentistry was established because there was basically no institution for African Americans to get a dental education in the South. He said the Southern area of the United States was in dire need of oral health care.

"There was already a School of Medicine at Meharry, with faculty in place, so it was logical that the School of Dentistry would be located on the campus of Meharry," Moses concludes.

Meharry's Dental School was launched as the first institution in the South for training African-American dentists in 1886. Today, the School of Dentistry admits approximately 60 students each year to the four-year curriculum leading to a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree. There are two graduate programs: Oral Maxillofacial Surgery and General Practice Residency.