For Black History Month, we’d like to pay tribute to trailblazers and honor lesser-known people of color in the dental and oral surgery fields.
In 1919, Dr. Annie Elizabeth “Bessie” Delany entered the freshman class at Columbia University College of Dental Medicine (at the time known as the School of Dental and Oral Surgery) where she was one of only 11 women, and the only African-American woman, out of 170 students. ? In 1923, she graduated and became the second African-American dentist to be licensed in New York state.
During her career, Dr. Delany took care of the teeth of many Harlem notable figures, such as nightclub owner Ed Small, civil rights leader Louis T. Wright, and author James Weldon Johnson. ? Known in her community as Dr. Bessie, she was applauded for treating the rich and poor equally as well as performing thousands of free children’s dental exams.
? In 1994, Columbia’s School of Dental and Oral Surgery awarded her its Distinguished Alumna Award for “her pioneering work as a minority woman in dentistry”, a year before her death at 104.