This is one in a series of profiles showcasing some of Harvard’s stellar graduates.
Ashiana Jivraj, D.M.D. ’21, jokes that she was born in a dental chair. Her mother worked through most of her pregnancy as a general dentist, and Jivraj spent most of her childhood — from 7 to 17 — being shuttled to and from the orthodontist’s office.
While it would be easy to assume these are the reasons Jivraj was destined for a career in dentistry, it was in fact a trip to India during her sophomore year of college that set the course.
“I wound up working in a dental clinic and saw the immense challenge that the social determinants of health brought to patients,” she said. “I consistently saw people deciding between whether they would take care of their tooth or put food on the table. It was that systemic challenge that drove me to pursue dentistry with the goal of bettering equitable access to care.”
Jivraj’s path pursuing her dental degree has been unconventional from the start. She entered the Doctor of Dental Medicine program at Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) in August of 2015 as a member of the Class of 2019. Two years into her pre-doctoral education, Jivraj decided to pause her dental education to pursue an M.B.A. at Harvard Business School.
“While pursuing my M.B.A., I discovered my interest in strategic thinking and trying to determine how we solve pain points for our patients and stakeholders,” she said. “The M.B.A. widened my scope to allow me to understand and explore so many different fields and industries. I was reminded that this mission of increasing access to care was why I came to Harvard and I learned that the private sector could have an incredible impact on this space. Returning to HSDM from the M.B.A. program, I had a renewed outlook about why I wanted to pursue the D.M.D. and what I wanted to learn.”