To celebrate the conclusion of Women’s History Month, last week VCU School of Dentistry hosted three pioneers in the field of oral health to discuss their new book, “Undaunted Trailblazers: Minority Women Leaders for Oral Health.” Co-authors Jeanne Sinkford, D.D.S., M.S., Ph.D., D.Sc., Marilyn Woolfolk, D.D.S., M.S., M.P.H., and Shelia Price, D.D.S., Ed.D., M.A., sat down with Carlos Smith, D.D.S., director of diversity, equity and inclusion and the ethics curriculum at VCU School of Dentistry, to discuss their own experiences and what brought them together to document previously untold stories of minority women who changed the dental profession.

“Undaunted Trailblazers: Minority Women Leaders for Oral Health” is a collection of 31 stories of minority women leaders in oral health and was published on September 1, 2021.

Price, associate dean of admissions, recruitment and access and professor of diagnostic sciences at West Virginia University School of Dentistry, explained that the book was not something that she and her colleagues had planned, but actually came about following a trip the three friends took to Washington, D.C. to celebrate the career of Sinkford, professor emeritus and former dean of the Howard University College of Dentistry and the first woman to serve as dean of a dental school.

“We spent a lot of time at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. We found ourselves lingering and investing our time when we perused the women’s suffrage exhibit,” said Price. “At dinner, we found ourselves continually going back to what we saw at the gallery and started making parallels with what is current in dental education and in the oral health profession in general. And then we started thinking, ‘where are the women, particularly the minority women, for oral health?’”

They realized there was a significant gap in recognizing the accomplishments minority women have made to oral health, so they decided that they would dedicate the next two years to recording the stories of the trailblazers in their field. Initially, they did not plan to include their own stories, but eventually gave in to their editor’s request.

“It’s not about us, it’s about the pathways that we’ve had to struggle through to get where we are. We were amazed with the 31 names that are in this book. Each could write their own story,” said Sinkford. “It took us two years to compile the data. This was not going to be a coffee table book, it was to be a book with a serious legacy to the American Dental Education Association.”

“The book represents a unique historical documentation of the lifetime advancements made by minority women leaders. It filled a void in the literature where the contributions of these women have been scarcely mentioned, and thus, by omission, have been characterized as unimportant,” added Woolfolk, professor emerita of dentistry and assistant dean emerita of student services from University of Michigan School of Dentistry. “Now, the groundbreaking work of these women that have been so crucial to any improvement of oral health is captured for history and the body of work can be appropriately credited.”

As the discussion continued, Sinkford, Woolfolk and Price shared their own experiences, the lessons that they learned on their paths to leadership and the advice they have for minority women blazing their own trails in dentistry.

All proceeds from the purchase of “Undaunted Trailblazers: Minority Women Leaders for Oral Health” will benefit the Enid A. Neidle Scholar in Residence Program for Women (ENS) at ADEA.

Watch the video below to enjoy the full conversation.

Categories Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Schoolwide News