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Sindecuse Museum

Marilyn Woolfolk—Public Health and Administration

Marilyn Woolfolk and Nancy Neal, coordinator of the Ann Arbor Public School Head Start Program. Circa 1980s.

Woolfolk, left, Instructor in Community Dentistry, and Nancy Neal, parent-coordinator of the Head Start program in the Ann Arbor Public Schools prepare for a dental screening session of 4-year-olds, circa 1980s. Photo courtesy of Marilyn Woolfolk, DDS, MPH and the University of Michigan.

Marilyn Woolfolk (1949- )
MS Microbiology 1972, DDS 1978, MPH 1982 University of Michigan

Public Health and Administration

Balancing School and Family

Marilyn Woolfolk entered college and dental school when women, empowered by the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s, began actively seeking careers on an equal footing with men. Faculty mentors convinced her to try dentistry, a family-friendly field that would allow her to be her own boss. Woolfolk was the first female student to have a child while in Michigan’s dental program. With a supportive husband and a neighbor providing child care, Woolfolk graduated with her class.

Community Dentistry

In the 1980s, Woolfolk was an Instructor in Community Dentistry, and worked with the Head Start program in the Ann Arbor Public School. At the time, Woolfolk was also getting her Masters in Public Health Dentistry and welcoming a second child.

An Administrative Role

In the 1990s, in addition to her teaching responsibilities, Woolfolk became Director of Student Affairs, providing career, personal and academic counseling and overseeing the financial aid and scholarship resources. Named Assistant Dean for Student Services in 1997, she added admissions to her responsibilities. In 2002, she was the first African American woman to become a full professor at the U-M dental school. Here she speaks with a dental school donor.

Guiding Hand

Woolfolk has found mentoring women students one of her major satisfactions. As Assistant Dean, she tries to help all students “look at the long picture.” With about 400 students to keep track of, that is a tall order.

Award for Contributions to Dental Education

In March 2012, Woolfolk received the American Dental Education Association’s Presidential Citation for “increasing access to health professions education, coordinating and evaluating community-based education, and increasing the diversity of the health care work force.”

 

Marilyn Woolfolk's 1978 graduation portrait

Women changed the face of dentistry for the better in terms of making patients more relaxed and less fearful.

Marilyn Woolfolk, 2012. Graduation photo, Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry collection, SMD 292.1978.
Marilyn Woolfolk lab coat

Woolfolk wore this 1970s-style coat during her first years in community dentistry. Courtesy of Marilyn Woolfolk, DDS, MPH and the University of Michigan.

Marilyn Woolfolk placing a graduation hood on student Jody Chapman

Woolfolk, left, and Dr. Heys, right, share the joy of graduation hooding Jody Chapman. Photo courtesy of Marilyn Woolfolk, DDS, MPH and the University of Michigan.