Come Friday, May 19, Ghanaian immigrant Janice Darko will write her name in the University of Utah’s history books as she’ll become the first Black woman to graduate from the educational institution’s School of Dentistry.
According to KUTV, Darko, who serves in the U.S. Navy Reserve, immigrated to the United States with her family. She had to juggle a handful of other responsibilities when she was enrolled in U of U’s dental program.
“Being a Black woman from Africa, I still have to go home. Cook, clean be a wife, take care of my children. I have all of those responsibilities,” she said. Despite the challenges, however, Darko said she’s proud of writing her name in the school’s history books.
“This is bigger than me. This is not just about me. This is about representing my community,” Darko said.
The university’s dental program is said to be somewhat young, as it started operations about ten years ago, KUTV reported. Though students at U of U’s Dental School are predominantly White, a spokesperson at the school told the news outlet that efforts are being made to encourage students of color to enroll in the program.
“Apply. Come. Come. Just because Dentistry has been a traditionally white profession in the state of Utah for so many years, doesn’t mean that the profession is closed to anyone else,” Dr. Bart Watts, who is with the University of Utah School of Dentistry, also said.
Darko, after gaining admission to U’s School of Dentistry, decided to involve herself in an initiative aimed at paying homage to diversity at the school by setting up an art display, highlighting the artistic prowess of her colleague students and faculty.
“When I interviewed her I realized what a remarkable young woman that I was interviewing,” Dr. Bart Watts said, adding that Darko’s art display program also impressed him.
“We work with students on hand skills. Learning how to work on teeth, be good providers. And we forget that translates into other types of visual art as well,” Dr. Watts said.