When Jeanne Sinkford, D.D.S., Ph.D., was a child, she didn’t know
any women dentists, but knew she wanted a dental career.
“I thought I wanted to be a dental hygienist,” Dr. Sinkford says. “But
my dentist told me I really wanted to be a dentist.”
Eventually, Dr. Sinkford became much more than she ever imagined,
becoming the first woman dean of a dental school, a post she held for 16 years
at the Howard University College of Dentistry (HU COD).
For that distinction, as well as for her lifelong commitment to
ensuring that women and minorities are able to succeed, the ADA Board of Trustees
will award Dr. Sinkford the ADA Distinguished Service Award at ADA 2015—America’s
Dental Meeting on November 6 in Washington, DC.
“Dr. Jeanne Sinkford is a true leader in dentistry and I’m
inspired by her,” said ADA President Maxine Feinberg, D.D.S. “Throughout her
career, and especially as the first female dean of the College of Dentistry at
Howard University, Dr. Sinkford has enriched our profession by creating
pathways for underrepresented minorities and women to enter the dental field.
She is a role model to so many dental professionals and to this day continues
to lead us forward. The Distinguished Service Award is the ADA’s highest honor,
and I’m pleased to present it to Dr. Sinkford.”
After 16 years as Dean at Howard and 17 years as the Associate Director
and Director of the Center of Equity and Diversity of ADEA, she is now Senior Scholar
in Residence at ADEA.
Dr. Sinkford has earned respect from colleagues all over the
world, and many of them call her a mentor. She is currently Professor and Dean Emeritus
at HU COD, and a member of the Institute of Medicine, a division of the
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
“Jeanne is a genuine coalition builder who has fashioned and
focused her career on leveraging human talent and associated resources to
strengthen the capacity of the oral health workforce to meet the needs of our
diverse population,” says Lois Cohen, Ph.D., consultant at the National
Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research in Bethesda, MD. “Her many career
accomplishments epitomize demonstrated leadership, inclusiveness and diversity,
engagement of multiple constituencies, creativity, reproducibility and breadth
of impact. These are all characteristic of a greater vision for the profession,
innovative practical solutions and achievements that clearly demonstrate women
and minorities have strong leadership positions in today’s oral health
workforce. As the pioneer for outreach to minority communities and the world of
women at ADEA, she crafted and led these programs where none existed before.”
Paul Gates, D.M.D., M.B.A., Chairman of the Bronx Lebanon
Department of Dentistry in New York City, echoed Dr. Cohen’s praise. “Our
careers became indirectly entwined when Dr. Sinkford retired after 16 years as
the Dean of the Howard University School of Dentistry and I was offered the
opportunity to succeed her,” he says. “After a very close review of that
situation, I was better able to appreciate the outstanding contributions of
this giant to dental education in particular and minority dentistry in
Dr. Sinkford is a 1953 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Howard
University with a degree in psychology and chemistry. She then graduated first
in her class at Howard’s College of Dentistry, and joined the Howard faculty in
the Division of Prosthodontics upon her 1958 graduation. Two years later, she
moved to Chicago and attended Northwestern to study for a doctorate in
physiology while pursuing advanced education in prosthodontics.
Dr. Sinkford returned to Howard in 1964, when she became Chair of
the Division of Prosthodontics. She became Associate Dean in 1967 and a full Professor
in 1968. During a 1974–1975 sabbatical, she served at Children’s Hospital
National Medical Center in which she completed a pediatric dental residency. Dr.
Sinkford then returned to HU COD as Dean.
As ADEA Senior Scholar in Residence, Dr. Sinkford focuses on the
opportunities she has created and expanded for diversity in dental education
through innovative pipeline programs, leadership and faculty development. The
main obstacles she encounters in recruiting women and minorities to the dental
profession concern the costs of dental school and the lack of earlier exposure
to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, she says.
Ernestine Lacy, D.D.S., Professor of Restorative Sciences and Executive
Director of the Office of Student Development and Multicultural Affairs at
Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry, says Dr. Sinkford has
been an inspiration for two decades. “The thing that stands out for me is her
passion for what she is doing,” Dr. Lacy says. “She truly believes it is the
right thing to do in terms of minority recruitment.”
Dr. Lacy continues, “she is a born leader. She doesn’t just talk
the talk, but walks the walk. She gets things done.”
Dr. Sinkford does not plan on retiring. “I have a lot of writing I
want to do,” she says.
from ADA News, ADA Distinguished
Service Award: Dr. Jeanne Sinkford,
September 30, 2015.
Published on October 14, 2015.