In 2021, a tribute to Dr. George Grant, the first African American faculty member of Harvard University and its dental school, came in the form of a scholarship to support underrepresented minority students. This aligns with the 1867 actions of Harvard School of Dental Medicine as the first dental school in the country to accept African American students.
During Black History Month, and every day, the dental community recognizes the contributions of African Americans such as Dr. Grant, to U.S. history and oral health care.
The Freeman, Grant, Franklin Scholarship, according to HSDM.Harvard.edu, supports underrepresented minority students, with financial need, pursuing their predoctoral (DMD) program at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine.
Last year in Boston, almost 132 years after Robert Tanner Freeman (a member of Harvard’s aforementioned class of 1867) became the first African American in the U.S. to graduate from dental school, Harvard initiated the scholarship as another step toward equity in the profession.
The scholarship, which will be awarded annually, honors a trio of trailblazers, Dr. Freeman, Dr. Grant, and Dr. Dolores Mercedes Franklin, the first African American woman to graduate from HSDM in 1974. Its goal: Help admit “the best and brightest students regardless of their financial means,” according to school’s website.
How did Dr. George Grant change dentistry for the better?
Dr. Grant, who earned his dental degree in 1870 and became a faculty member of Harvard University and the School of Dental Medicine in 1884, was internationally known for his work with cleft palates. A prosthetic device of his invention — he called it the Oblate Palate — allowed dental patients to speak and eat more normally than they would have otherwise.
The International Medical Congress recognized Dr. Grant with a medal in October, 1887, for his innovation, but his legacy as an authority in his field can be noted in numerous instances, according to Massachusetts’ The Bay State Banner:
- president of the Harvard Dental Alumni Association in 1882
- founding member and later president of the Harvard Odontological Society
- presenter and demonstrator before the Massachusetts Dental Society and British Dental Association
Learn more about Dr. Grant’s contributions as an educator and as a Massachusetts-based dentist in private practice HERE.
What innovation of Dr. George Grant changed the world of sports?
Though his invention of the wooden golf tee earned the first patent (No. 638920) of its type in the U.S. in 1899, Dr. Grant took no profit, rather, shared prototype versions with family and friends, according to USGA.org.
In 1991, the United States Golf Association recognized Dr. Grant as the original inventor of the wooden tee.
Find out how his ingenuity more than a century ago contributed to the evolution of a staple among golfers HERE.