Dr. Shanele Williams, a general practice resident at Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) working at the Cambridge Health Alliance, recently received the Joseph L. Henry Oral Health Fellowship in Minority Health Policy. The fellowship is given to oral health leaders, particularly minority oral health leaders, who pursue careers in health policy, public health practice and academia.
“I come from a family of migrants who did not have exposure to the concept of preventive dental care, and was raised in an underserved, predominantly African American neighborhood,” Williams said. “I see the need to improve access to dental care among so many groups – especially among members of minority populations. I believe that this fellowship will give me an opportunity to acquire essential knowledge and further develop the leadership skills I need to make a positive and hopefully, significant impact in communities with the greatest needs.”
Williams is currently the supervising dentist for the Boys and Girls Club of Boston, as well as a dedicated public health and community service advocate who serves as a clinic volunteer for ACTION (Action for Children and Teens in Oral Health Needs); HSDM Wampanoag Oral Health Initiative; iSCAPE (Improve Special Care Access and Patient Equality); and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children of Boston). She is a native of Jamaica and a first-generation college graduate, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Integrative Biology from the University of Florida (Gainesville, FL) in 2007, and a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) from Meharry Medical College – School of Dentistry (Nashville, TN) in 2014.
“As a dentist I have the opportunity to not just provide helpful treatment, but I also get to use dental appointments and outreach events as opportunities to educate and motivate others about maintaining oral as well as overall health. Having the opportunity to witness the significant need for oral health services and education among vulnerable groups compelled me to focus my time and energy in the dental field,” Williams said. She will receive her Master of Public Health (MPH) degree from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in 2016 while completing the Fellowship.
The Joseph L. Henry Oral Health Fellowship in Minority Health Policy is named after Dr. Joseph L. Henry, who served for twenty-one years as a distinguished faculty member at HSDM and as its interim dean during a critical period for the School from July 1990 to June 1991. A memorial page for him states, “Henry was a calm but persistent leader within his profession during the Civil Rights Movement. Being the first African American to break through a number of professional barriers, he carried the civil rights movement into the health professions. Dr. Henry lived what he taught: that health professionals should be clinically competent, civically active, politically informed, and serve the community with a socially conscious commitment.”
The fellowship in his name is supported by the Dental Service of Massachusetts/Delta Dental Plan and previously the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) through a cooperative agreement between the Office of Minority Health and Minority Faculty Development Program at Harvard Medical School.