Black History Now Spotlight: Dr. Suffiyah Webb

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In honor of Black History Month, HOT 97 is highlighting influential Black professionals this entire month. Dr. Suffiyah Webb is no short of making history in the dental field.

Dr. Webb is a pediatric dentist, and she currently holds postion as the only Black woman on the New Jersey Public Health Coucil. Throughout her career, Dr. Webb initiated over 30 dental programs in Newark, NJ- enhancing oral health education and access for children in underserved areas with her partnership with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey.

Dr. Webb got her start in dentistry after she “went on a medical mission trip to Guatemala as a volunteer in college. There was one person on the trip who also spoke Spanish (she was Dominican) and didn’t need a translator, so they paired me with her. She was a dentist, and I got a wonderful depiction of how she served the community by promoting oral health.”

She says says she decided to become a pediatric denist as, “children are impressionable and unpredictable. I was an adult dentist for two years and found many adult patients afraid of the dentist” she explains. “Their fear was often triggered by a poor experience at the dentist as a child. I really enjoy providing a positive experience as I empower families to have oral health as one of their top priorities.”

Dr. Webb also has a master’s degree in public health, however,  she says she “found it challenging to make an impact outside of the patients I treated daily. Being a member of the council allows me to learn about a multitude of public health issues affecting the residents of NJ.” She says being appointed by Gov. Murphy was “humbling.”

When asked about being the only Black woman on the New Jersey Health Council she expresses, “It’s wonderful to represent, as always. Most importantly, I can advocate for issues that affect us disproportionately. “

Webb says she started a school-based dental program in which they “provide comprehensive preventive services on school premises to provide more access to care. In this economy, families are reluctant to take off work to take their children to the dentist if they don’t think they have a pressing concern” she says.

“So I decided to bring the dentist to the children. All children seen on school premises are sent home with a report of their child’s oral health status and an opportunity to call my office for a visit to the practice. We can provide this to the school free of charge and increase the utilization of the child’s insurance. We also see patients who are uninsured. We started the program two years ago and have grown to nearly 100 schools” Dr. Webb continued.

Hailing from Newark NJ, Dr. Webb, “saw a need” to create these problems for children in her hometown. “After opening my practice at the beginning of COVID-19, I became inundated with children under the age of 5 who needed complete mouth rehab under general anesthesia. Dental caries are mostly preventable, so I tackled the issue head-on. My practice philosophy believes prevention is the best medicine.”

In honor of Black History Month, Dr. Webb says she has been inspired by “Dr. Bessie Delaney and Dean Jeanne Sinkford. Dr Delaney earned her dental degree from Columbia University in 1023 and was the 2nd licensed black woman dentist in NY. She also provided free dental exams to thousands of children. Dr. Sinkford was a woman dean of an American dental school, Black or white. This Black woman was the first female dean of Howard University College of Dentistry, my Alma mater.”

Dr. Webb encourages everyone to chase their dream while also keeping in mind that it is critical to find your “why” and work diligently and authentically so that the “how” will come to you. She also emphasizes the importance of being a forever student and embracing listening as the key to success.