Colleen Greene, M.P.H. ’13, D.M.D. ’13, uses the word “fun” a lot when talking about work.
A Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) graduate who also has a master’s degree from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Greene is given to saying things like: “It’s fun to work toward humanizing the concept of a dentist,” “What’s fun about advocacy is that you have to constantly step back and think through what isn’t working,” and “That there are ways to improve systems makes it super fun to continue chipping away at it.”
It doesn’t take long to figure out that what Greene means by fun involves turning challenges into opportunities.
A first-generation college student from a lower-income household, Greene earned a bachelor’s degree from a small college in Kalamazoo, Mich., and planned a career in health care based on a chemistry teacher’s recommendation.
Midway through her time at HSDM, Greene became president of the American Student Dental Association and founding president of the Oral Health Progress and Equity Network — roles that allowed her to help educate other dental students about debt prevention and scholarship opportunities, and to push for inclusion and diversity in the American Dental Association. After dental school, Greene matched to a residency program at Children’s Wisconsin, where she saw another problem in search of a solution.