Beatrice Williams, DDS ‘21, first-year orthodontics resident at the UNC Adams School of Dentistry, earned the 2021 National Dental Association (NDA) Foundation Dr. Bessie Delaney Scholarship, worth $10,000. Williams was recognized at the NDA’s Annual Meeting in June.
The Dr. Bessie Delaney Scholarship is named in honor of Dr. Annie Elizabeth “Bessie” Delaney. Delaney earned her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 1923 from Columbia University. The only Black female in her class, she was the second Black woman licensed to practice dentistry in the state of New York.
“As a child of immigrants, I have witnessed first-hand the grit it takes to be a pioneer. Throughout my academic career, I have had the honor of being mentored by individuals who to make the impossible possible,” said Williams. “It is truly an honor to be recognized at the national level for being an agent of change. I hope to continue paving the way for the firsts of the generations to come.”
Delaney treated many of Harlem’s poor, including performing thousands of children’s oral health exams and providing care during the Great Depression when many could not afford to pay. In her 27 years of practice, she never raised her fees.
She became more famous at the age of 101, with the publication of the book, “Having Our Say” by Amy Hill Hearth. 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.”
“I have had the good fortune to work with Beatrice since she was an undergraduate aspiring toward dental school. Throughout this time, I have seen in Bea the pioneering spirit embodied by Dr. Delany,” said Jennifer Webster-Cyriaque, DDS, PhD, William’s research mentor.
“Much remains to be done as we work as a field towards the oral health equity that Dr. Delany worked to promote. It is wonderful to know that individuals like Bea will be there to continue movement in this important space.”
The NDA Foundation is the non-profit, charitable arm of the National Dental Association. Incorporated in 1976, as a 501(c) 3, the Foundation achieves its mission through support of educational and scientific research endeavors.
For more than 40 years, the Foundation has been successful in promoting its agenda, securing scholarships and grants, and funding programs to ensure oral health care remains a viable profession for Black and other under-represented students. Together with Colgate-Palmolive, the Foundation has provided more than $4 million in scholarship funds for more than 3,000 students.