Dr. Sharon Nicholson Harrell – dental director for FirstHealth of the Carolinas, health-care advocate for underserved children and UNC-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry alumna – will give the keynote address at the School’s annual commencement May 13.
The ceremony will be held at 4 p.m. at Memorial Hall on the University campus. School of Dentistry degree candidates include 75 for the doctor of dental surgery, 29 for the bachelor of science in dental hygiene, 19 for the certificate in dental assisting, 18 for the master of science and 10 for the certificate in dental hygiene.
In 1997, Harrell joined FirstHealth of the Carolinas, a not-for-profit hospital system based in Pinehurst. She now supervises the operation of three FirstHealth Dental Care Centers: a full-time clinic in Southern Pines, which provides dental care for underprivileged children from Richmond, Lee and Harnett counties as well as Moore County, and part-time operations in both Raeford and Troy.
She received her DDS degree from the School of Dentistry in 1987 and completed an advanced general dentistry residency at the University of Maryland Dental School in 1988. She completed her master’s degree in public health training at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Public Health in 1990 and has achieved Fellowship in the Academy of General Dentistry.
Before joining FirstHealth, Harrell was the Cumberland County Health Department’s dental director. She also has worked with a federally funded community health center in York, Pa.
Harrell has served on the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Dental Care Access, conducted by the North Carolina Institute of Medicine. She is a member of the Robert Wood Johnson Pipeline Grant Advisory Board for the dental school, where she also has served as an adjunct faculty member for 16 years.
In recognition of her work with students and young dentists, the American Dental Association has presented her with the Golden Apple Award for Outstanding Leadership in Mentoring. The North Carolina Medical Journal recently selected her as a Tarheel Footprint in Health Care, recognizing “unusual and often unsung contributions of individual citizens who have made health care for North Carolinians more accessible and of higher quality.”
“Dr. Sharon Nicholson Harrell has dedicated her career to extending oral health care to children in underserved communities in our state, and she has done so with great compassion, understanding and strong advocacy,” said Dr. John N. Williams, the School’s dean. “She will bring an inspiring message to our graduating students.”
The University’s commencement will be held at 9:30 a.m. May 13 in Kenan Memorial Stadium.