Campus & Community

Changing lives through dentistry

Kobie Gordon plans to bring dental public health to underserved communities

4 min read
Kobie Gordon.

Kobie Gordon, M.M.Sc. ’21, wants to make oral health care available to those incarcerated at the state and federal levels.

Courtesy of Kobie Gordon

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

For Kobie Gordon, M.M.Sc. ’21, the ability of dentists to transform lives by fixing smiles was a superpower he wanted to possess.

“There was a young girl in my neighborhood back home who was born with cleft lip and palate,” Gordon said. “Over the years, she received various dental treatments. By the time she got to university, one could hardly tell that she was born with a cleft lip and palate. Her self-esteem went through the roof. I was always impressed that dentistry was able to make such a profound impact on her life,” he said.

This May, when Gordon graduates with an advanced degree and a certificate in Dental Public Health (D.P.H.), he’ll use that superpower to improve the quality of oral health care available to those in marginalized populations.

A native of Washington, D.C., Gordon completed his D.D.S. degree at the University of Southern California. During dental school, he was a founding member of Project Smiles, an organization that educates dental students about public health. He also worked with The Midnight Mission shelter in Los Angeles to organize dental screenings for the homeless population. An avid traveler who has visited 110 countries, he broadened his awareness of oral health inequities by traveling to areas lacking dental care.

“During dental school, I traveled to Mexico, Fiji, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, and Nicaragua to provide oral health services to underserved communities. This really piqued my interest in dental public health and is essentially why I decided to pursue dental public health,” Gordon said.

In 2018, Gordon was admitted to Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) to pursue a Master of Medical Sciences (M.M.Sc.) degree with a certificate in Dental Public Health. D.P.H. residents take courses across several disciplines working with the resources and faculty of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Graduate School of Education, The Forsyth Institute, and Cambridge Health Alliance.

Gordon studied epidemiology and research methods, social determinants of health and dental public health practice, health policy, and oral health services delivery systems. Within a small cohort of D.P.H. residents, many from different countries, he established strong connections with his peers.

“One thing I will certainly remember most from my experience at HSDM is the camaraderie with my co-residents in the program. I will miss those afternoons sharing stories and laughs over Saudi Arabian black tea and dates,” he said. “I am most proud of the opportunities I had to present on antibiotic stewardship with my colleagues at various conferences,” he added.

In 2019, Gordon was selected as a recipient of the American Association of Public Health Dentistry Foundation’s Herschel S. Horowitz Scholarship. The selection committee was impressed with Gordon’s academic credentials and his clear interest and commitment to dental public health.

During the last year of his program, which took place during the pandemic, Gordon kept active in his spare time by exploring the backroads of New England on a new road bike and joining a local CrossFit gym. When travel restrictions lift, he hopes to explore beyond the U.S.

“The first place I hope to visit after restrictions lift would be Namibia! I am intrigued by its surreal landscapes and the Himba tribe, and hope to visit this upcoming summer,” he said.

Until then, when he graduates this May he plans to move to the Dallas-Fort Worth area to begin serving in a dental public health role.

“I hope to make an impact on improving the access to and quality of oral health care for individuals who are currently or previously incarcerated at the state and federal levels,” he said.