Campus & Community

Reason to smile

Harvard Dental graduate finds his purpose in serving others

4 min read
Jeffrey Taylor.

Courtesy of HSDM

This is one in a series of profiles showcasing some of Harvard’s stellar graduates.

Jeffrey Taylor’s passion for art and science led him to the field of dentistry where he hopes to combine these interests to make a difference.

After he graduates from Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) in May with his D.M.D., Taylor will pursue a residency in oral and maxillofacial surgery where he’ll one day reconstruct damaged jaws, fix life-altering facial deformities, and give hope to those who need a reason to smile again.

“Where I come from, there was a great need for dental work in the community,” said Taylor, a native of Atlanta. The singer, songwriter, and piano player often compares dentistry with music and art.

“Dentistry is the perfect mix between my love for medical science and for the arts. This career is the perfect combination of what I love and of the effect I will have on the populations I serve,” he said.

Taylor’s interest in supporting his community began before he arrived at HSDM. It was sparked at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Ala., where he received his bachelor of science in biomedical sciences. At Oakwood, he served as the president of the Pre-Dental Society and mentored students who shared his interest in dentistry. He also coordinated opportunities for them to volunteer at local health clinics.

At HSDM, he sought out opportunities to further foster community through diversity and inclusion efforts at the School. Serving as a Diversity and Inclusion Fellow, he returned to his undergraduate alma mater and visited other historically black colleges, universities, and high schools to encourage underrepresented minorities to consider applying to dental schools.

“The greatest way to reach people who may not know about the opportunities afforded to them is to go out and meet them where they are,” Taylor said. He visited Spelman College, Oakwood University, and other schools, and spoke to students about opportunities in the field of dentistry. “I’m grateful that HSDM supported this effort and allowed me to go and establish a connection on behalf of the School.”

Jeffrey Taylor working on a patient.
Jeffrey Taylor in “ACTION,” donating one Saturday each month to work at a student-run pediatric dental clinic.

Since 2017, Taylor has immersed himself in local community service in Cambridge. As a volunteer coordinator for HSDM’s Action for Children and Teens in Oral Health Need (ACTION), he devoted a Saturday every month to work at a student-run pediatric dental clinic providing care to underprivileged youth.

“This was something that truly opened my eyes to how much impact you can have on a child’s life, even as a first- and second-year dental student,” said Taylor. “It has always been a priority to maintain community service work. It is a consistent reminder of what my purpose is in this life, which is to serve those who cannot serve themselves and to help those who need care.”

During his time at HSDM, Taylor has also mentored his fellow students. He participated in the American Dental Education Association Academic Dental Careers Fellowship Program (ADCFP), where he had the opportunity to teach and mentor other predoctoral students.

“This opportunity was truly a treat!” Taylor said. “I believe that sometimes it can be challenging for educators to understand the best way students learn, especially when they have been teaching the same way successfully for many years. This was a great opportunity to get my feet wet and teach a subject that I felt I could revamp,” he added.

“Jeffrey has proven to be a positive force relative to educating the masses,” said Brian Swann, assistant professor of Oral Health Policy and Epidemiology. “Whether through different student organizations, like the ACTION program for vulnerable children, or teaching opportunities like the Oral Health Day workshops for first-year medical students, he strives for excellence.”

“To me, the times that I’ve been able to give care to patients through community service, as well as during clinic, have been the most meaningful part of my time at HSDM. Because I came into this field to serve, I was very happy to serve at any given opportunity,” said Taylor.

In just a few months, Taylor will start his residency in oral and maxillofacial surgery at Emory University in Atlanta. Not surprisingly, an increase in patient need is what motivated Taylor to pursue this specialty.

“Oral and maxillofacial surgery is an expanding field where the need is great and the training is rigorous,” said Taylor. “In this field, I will be able to provide service to those in need while also being challenged by the ever-changing field of oral surgery.

“The exciting thing about this opportunity is the autonomy I will have as a doctor. This is where the true learning begins!”