Established in 1840 as the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, the University of Maryland School of Dentistry is known as the first dental college in the world. This past week, the school again made history when it graduated the first black valedictorian in its 176-year existence.
Not only was she announcing news that she was the 2016 class valedictorian at the University of Maryland’s School of Dentistry—the nation’s oldest dental school—she had also made Black history by becoming its first African-American valedictorian.
Indeed, the Baltimore-based dentistry program was chartered in 1840, and it took 176 for a black graduate to earn the top class ranking.
“It still hasn’t sunk in fully, but it started to when I realized how big of a deal it was becoming,” she told ESSENCE.com by phone. “And how people saw [my story] as an inspiration.”
The Cincinnati native first found out that she was valedictorian minutes before she was to give her graduation speech as class president, a position she held for four years. But it would take another two days, based on curiosity on her part, to confirm she had also made Black history.
The next step is a move cross-country where she will be specializing in orthodontics at the three-year residency program at the University of California San Francisco.
For her part, Poole wants others who are interested in healthcare, especially if they want to specialize, to know that her kind of summa cum laude success is possible.
“If you know you want to specialize, you kind of have to pay attention to the small details and stay on top of things because your life as an “applicant” isn’t over,” she advises. “You are going to have to apply again and it’s competitive.”