Meet Tera Poole, the First Black Valedictorian At World’s First School of Dentistry

Cincinnati native Tera Poole in 2016 made massive headlines when she became class valedictorian at the University of Maryland’s School of Dentistry (UMSOD) – the world’s first dental college.

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.

She also made Black history by becoming its first African-American valedictorian since its establishment breaking its 176 year history.

Tera Poole the First Black Valedictorian

Tera Poole during graduation

The Baltimore-based dentistry program was chartered in 1840, and it took 176 for a black graduate to earn the top class ranking, Essence reports.

“It still hasn’t sunk in fully, but it started to when I realized how big of a deal it was becoming,” she told the mag. “And how people saw [my story] as an inspiration.”

News first broke for Tera that she was valedictorian minutes before she was to give her graduation speech as class president, a position she held for four years. She later found out she had rewritten black history.

Poole in a chat with AFRO opened up about becoming the first Black valedictorian at the school. She discussed how strong study habits, and good support systems helped her to become the top student in her graduating class. “I kind of just went into the school knowing that I wanted to give it all that I could, and that I wanted to stay focused on my end goal, which is to be an orthodontist,” Poole said.

Topping up dedication to her studies, Poole also got very involved in various activities while pursuing her education at the University of Maryland’s School of Dentistry. “I made use of all the opportunities that were given to me, in terms of getting involved”, said Poole, “I was class president for all four years, and I was involved in many organizations.”

Poole at the time expressed her excitement about she’s planning for the future: “I’ll be doing a three year Orthodontic Residency at the University of California, San Francisco starting in July,” Poole said, “and also providing resources for students and young professionals.”

She later went on to specialize in orthodontics at the three-year residency program at the University of California San Francisco.

“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.”

Tera in 2019 graduated residency.

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