BAR Awards Profile – Janet H. Southerland ’82

2003 Harvey E. Beech Outstanding Alumna Award
Janet H. Southerland ’82

If you’re an observant child, growing up in a big household, one of 10 children, you might learn at an early age just how difficult it can be for a family to pay for adequate health care. Janet Southerland was an observant child, and as a result we are here today to honor her considerable accomplishments as an assistant professor of dentistry at Carolina.

Janet’s aspirations growing up were to be able to improve the quality of dental care for minority and underserved populations. She was introduced to dental hygiene in high school, and apparently the dental floss wrapped right around her and just wouldn’t let go.

It’s safe to say that Janet made the most of what the UNC School of Dentistry and other academic departments have to offer. She earned a bachelor of arts and bachelor of science in dental hygiene, a doctor of dental surgery, a general practice residency and fellowship, a master of public health—and to top it all off, she has successfully defended and completed all the dissertation requirements for her PhD in oral biology.

Janet also has a wealth of experience in the field, from working on local anesthetic allergy testing, in county and private dental practices, and in research and clinical dentistry at Carolina; to her present position which includes chair of hospital dentistry in the dental school, chief of oral medicine service at UNC Hospitals, and director of the Dental Assistant On-Call Program. She currently serves on advisory board for the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture an History.

Carolina certainly seems to agree with Janet. In her own words, “The things I enjoy most about being a faculty member are teaching in the clinical, operating room, and classroom settings, researching oral disease that impacts systemic health, mentoring students who are interested in the dental profession, working with medically compromised patients, and being able to utilize all of my educational experiences to help my patients realize good oral health—for some of these patients, it is the first time in their lives. If I could do anything professionally, it would be exactly what I am doing now.”

Were we to list all her awards and honors, society memberships, local and international committee appointments, presentations, publications, contracts and major research interests, I fear we might need a few more pages. Colleague L’Tanya Bailey ’85 notes that Janet “has a profound commitment to the education of African American dentists and serves as a wonderful role model to all of our students. She is both dedicated and hard working, while also being highly intelligent, comical, and serious.”

Ronald Strauss, chair of dental ecology at UNC, said her peers “recognize her as a team player, one who can gain the respect and assistance from her co-workers and one who also has the focus to achieve everything that she wishes.”

Janet completed her doctoral research with Steve Offenbacher, director of the Center for Oral and Systemic Diseases. “She is an amazing person with admirable strength, perseverance and conviction,” Steve said. “She is tireless in her dedication to service, community and family. She is a natural leader, which combined with her intellect and compassion makes her an exceptional role model. She has a strong sense of duty and selflessly works for those around her. She is one of those unique individuals who can take adversity and transform it into an opportunity.”

We are happy to add Janet Southerland to the recipients of the Harvey E. Beech Outstanding Alumni Award, and happier still that she has devoted her knowledge and talents to Carolina.